GREEN BAY – There will come a time when Marcedes Lewis no longer boards a plane every July to travel to whichever NFL city he'll call home for the rest of the calendar year.
At some point, the Pro Bowl tight end's football career will give way to his interest in fashion, culture and martial arts. This offseason, the 36-year-old Lewis started co-hosting his own lifestyle show, "The Thre@d" on Uninterrupted's YouTube channel and intends to start working toward his belts in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
But as much as Lewis is ready for what life has to offer after football, he still feels a strong connection to the game and a burning desire to finish what the 6-foot-6, 267-pound tight end started as a first-round pick out of UCLA in 2006.
"I still love the game," said Lewis, one of the last active players from his draft class. "I'm still healthy, I'm still in good shape. I still have a lot to give to the game, not just on the field but off the field and why not empty the tank? I feel like when I retire I just want to be a position to know I left it all out there."
In talks with his mother and close friends, Lewis made the decision years ago he didn't want to be one of those ex-athletes who sits on a couch wondering if he left the game too soon.
That mentality kept Lewis focused during a difficult 2018, a year in which he was released by Jacksonville after 12 seasons and caught only four passes in his first year with Green Bay.
Last year was a career renaissance for Lewis. While no longer a featured target, the 15th-year veteran had a more defined role in Matt LaFleur's offense. He played 487 offensive snaps, catching 15 passes for 139 yards and a touchdown.
Still regarded as one of the game's top blocking tight ends, Lewis also was a valued leader in the locker room during the Packers' run to a 14-win season and the NFC title game.
"Just playing at such a high level for 15 years, this isn't a guy who's making it through 15 years just collecting checks," said tight end Robert Tonyan said. "This is a guy who goes out and works his ass off every day, sets the tone."
Lewis' voice in the tight ends room will be even more essential this year after the departure of Jimmy Graham. In addition to being an important offensive piece, Lewis will be tasked with grooming a young and talented position group.
How young? The four other tight ends on the Packers' roster (Tonyan, Jace Sternberger, Evan Baylis and rookie third-round pick Josiah Deguara) have combined to play in 37 NFL regular-season games.
As for Lewis, next month's opener in Minnesota will mark the veteran tight end's 203rd NFL regular-season appearance.
Lewis considers himself "the last of a dying breed" in today's NFL with the proliferation of spread offenses. Yet, he's happy to know there still is a place in the league for him and relishes bringing a little bit of old school to the new age of football.
"When I got in, you had the Todd Heaps, the Heath Millers, you had guys that were really putting their hand in the dirt and not really all about fantasy points," Lewis said.
"I'm still valuable. It's definitely changed over time. I'm just fortunate enough to be in a position where I'm still wanted and valued for what I do."
Team photographer Evan Siegle's favorite shots from the team's practice on Sunday, Aug. 23, 2020.
Like last year, the Packers have been smart in handling Lewis' workload in practice, resting him the day after padded practices here in the early going of camp.
Lewis is feeling healthy and energized entering his 15th season. Once the regular season begins, he is ready for whatever snaps await him on offense. If that means 40 or 45 snaps a game, Lewis is all for it.
At the same time, his goals haven't changed. Lewis wants a Super Bowl ring and he'll do whatever it takes to get it.
"That was the first thing that popped in my mind when I signed here in the first place was one, to play with Aaron Rodgers and two, to pursue a championship," Lewis said. "It gives me the best chance to do that, and also, just provide my leadership and display my style.
"I'm definitely excited to be here, excited to lead this young group of tight ends that I have in my room and go get what's ours."