- Jamison Hensley, ESPN Staff Writer
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The most missed longtime player in the AFC North will be Ray Lewis. That's according to this week's SportsNation poll, which put the Baltimore Ravens star linebacker ahead of Cleveland Browns kicker Phil Dawson and Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison.
Lewis, though, wasn't the runaway winner, receiving 47 of the vote. Dawson, who signed this week with the San Francisco 49ers, finished second with 31 percent.
Here are some selected comments from the AFC North mailbag ...
Keith from Sykesville, Md.: I think the player most missed by his team will definitely be Ray Lewis because he was the leader on the field when it comes to the defense. He was also a motivator on the sideline and in the locker room as we all know! I might be a little partial since I am a die-hard Ravens fan, but I think the poll numbers will speak for themselves!
Greg fro Cleveland: Phil Dawson. Because when the game is on the line whether in good or bad weather, he is money. Even from beyond 50 yards. He practiced how he kicked, meaning he purposely would practice difficult kicks just in case one came up in a game. Unshakeable, a true professional. He went out and did his job regardless of team record. He will truly be missed in Cleveland.
C.C. from Baltimore: Ray Lewis -- and it isn't close. Harrison was never the face of the Pittsburgh Steelers even though he embodied what the team was about -- tough, hard nosed defense. Dawson was, well, a kicker. And then there is Ray. Why do I feel like it is sacrilege comparing him to these two guys (no disrespect to anyone)? Stating a case for Ray Lewis might diminish what he was to the Ravens and the league at large so I won't take that risk.
Bert from Troy, Mich.: Phil Dawson was a game changer in Cleveland home games. When the weather often prevented the Cleveland offense from crossing the goal line, Dawson would boot the points home, even in horrible weather. The numbers by themselves speak volumes -- Dawson converted nearly 85 percent of his kicks at home while visiting kickers weren't anywhere close. Dawson was a master at the field goal and in Cleveland, where points have been hard to come by, they were almost always guaranteed off of Dawson's right foot. He will be missed.
Rick from Cleveland: I think that Phil Dawson will be missed the most simply because his contributions to the team have not diminished over time and if anything, he has gotten better. The same cannot be said for either James Harrison or Ray Lewis who are "past their primes" and do not factor in on the field nearly as much as they used to.
Mary from Belmar, N.J.: As much as I hate to say this, Ray Lewis will be missed the most. Not necessarily for his play on the field, but for his leadership. As a Steelers fan, I despised his dance, antics and such but it was absolutely measurable how much he got his teammates going and ready to play emotionally. I won't miss him at all, but his team will and so will the fans. The personality of that defense has definitely left the building!
Peter from New Orleans: As much as Ray Lewis meant to the Ravens -- his leadership, his image, and his legacy as a player -- he retired at the right time. Phil Dawson, on the other hand, was still a Pro Bowl kicker in addition to being a Browns staple. I think you have to miss a player's play in addition to his presence.
Patrick from Newport News, Va.: I think Ray Lewis will be missed the most because not only for his play on the field, but also for his value in the locker room. Leadership is an unmeasurable trait, but you can tell when it's missing. Look no further than the Steelers this past year. They lost James Farrior, Aaron Smith, and Hines Ward and didn't have any leaders to replace them. I have a hard time thinking Rashard Mendenhall would have skipped that game with those three still on the team.
Jeff from Medford, N.J.: Although Ray Lewis will not be missed for his play on the field the last few years, his leadership since he has been in Baltimore has been amazing. No player in the history of the NFL has been such a leader of men. As a Ravens fan, let's hope he instilled that leadership in Ray Rice, Suggs, etc. to carry on the "Raven"Way.
Bill from Cleveland: The Steelers won without Harrison and the Ravens won without Lewis. Cleveland would of been 0-16 a couple of times without Dawson.