Former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis will compete on the new CBS reality show “Beyond the Edge,” which has been compared to a celebrity version of “Survivor.” Photo courtesy of CBS.
Former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis will compete on the new CBS reality show “Beyond the Edge,” which has been compared to a celebrity version of “Survivor.” Photo courtesy of CBS.

For years Ray Lewis thrilled football fans as the Super Bowl MVP-winning linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens. Now he’s coming back for a different sort of competition in a new CBS reality show that’s been dubbed “Celebrity Survivor.”

Lewis, 46, is one of nine celebrities selected to be the first contestants on “Beyond the Edge.” According to the network, it’s a program in which contestants trade “their worlds of luxury to live in the dangerous jungles of Panama, where they will face off in epic adventures and endure the most brutal conditions, as they push themselves to go far beyond their comfort zone.”

For two weeks, the network says, they’ll experience “torrential downpours, scorching heat and deadly wildlife” while taking part in grueling challenges and learning lessons about “teamwork, perseverance and finding the inner strength they never knew they possessed.”

We’re pushing limits with one of the most intense celebrity adventure challenges EVER attempted. The new reality series #BeyondTheEdge comes to CBS on March 16.

— CBS (@CBS) February 3, 2022

Instead of vying to win money for themselves and their families the way players do on Survivor, the contestants on Beyond the Edge compete as teams to raise funds for a charity of their choice. The charity that Lewis chose is the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center in East Baltimore.

“Excited to be part of the new @CBS reality series #Beyond the Edge!” Lewis said on Twitter. “It was an experience unlike any other. Can’t wait for you to watch, starting March 16th!”

Johns Hopkins Children’s Center posted its excitement on Facebook. “We’re so excited to cheer on Ray Lewis in the new CBS reality series Beyond the Edge, starting March 16! We are honored he took on this challenge to help earn money in support of Johns Hopkins Children’s Center.”

For some time CBS executives have wanted to capitalize on the success of “Survivor” by creating another show with players enduring physical and mental challenges in exotic locales, but this time featuring celebrities that viewers at home already know and presumably want to watch. The formula has proven successful in shows such as “Celebrity Big Brother” and “Dancing with the Stars” in the U. S. and “I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here” in England.

On “Beyond the Edge,” there won’t be any judges or juries or blindside eliminations. But at any point, participants can ring a bell that indicates they’ve had enough and want to quit. At the end of 14 days, the top two earners will compete in one final challenge, with the winner getting named Beyond the Edge’s first champion and taking home the most money for his or her charity.

Ray Anthony Lewis played his entire 17-year NFL career with the Ravens (1996 to 2012) and is considered by many to be not only the greatest Raven of all time but one of the greatest defensive players in NFL history.

Lewis’s statistics include 2,059 combined tackles in his career; 1,568 solo tackles in his career and 156 solo tackles in one season. He is a two-time Super Bowl champion (XXXV and XLVII), and was named the Most Valuable Player of Super Bowl XXXV. He is one of the few NFL players to be in a Pro Bowl game in three different decades. When he retired after the 2012 season, he was the last remaining active player from the Ravens’ inaugural season.

In 2000, Lewis pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in connection with the stabbing deaths of two men in Atlanta that year, but the charge was later reduced to a misdemeanor in a plea deal after he agreed to testify against two others.

Lewis was sentenced to 12 months’ probation and fined $250,000 by the NFL, but his image recovered. In 2014, the Ravens unveiled a statue of him in front of M&T Bank Stadium and in 2018 he was selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. He has been mentioned or referenced on TV shows and movies such as “The Wire” and “The Rundown” and in music videos, including Mario’s “Just a Friend 2002” and Nelly’s “Heart of a Champion. He has appeared in TV ads for The NFL Network, Reebok, Old Spice and Under Armour, among others.

During and after his football career, Lewis has been involved in charitable activities and organizations such as the Ray Lewis Power52 Foundation, a nonprofit that he started to provide personal and economic assistance to disadvantaged youths. He and developer Samuel Polakoff once proposed to build a $200 million mixed-use development called Gateway South, including a sports and recreation complex shaped in plan like a football, on a 11-acre parcel off Russell Street where the Horseshoe Casino Baltimore now stands, but they bowed out after the city paid them $1.2 million to clear the way for the casino. In 2015 Lewis published an autobiography entitled “I Feel Like Going On: Life, Game and Glory.”

A teaser released by CBS this month shows Lewis and others running, padding a canoe, climbing a rope ladder and crawling through mud in the “unforgiving” jungle where they “tested themselves” for two weeks.

“I’m done is not an option,” Lewis says.

The host is Canadian sports announcer and commentator Mauro Ranallo. According to Variety and TMZ, the show was filmed last fall in Bocas del Toro, Panama.

The contestants of upcoming CBS celebrity reality competition show “Beyond the Edge” include (left to right) Craig Moran, Metta Sandiford-Artest, Paulina Porizkova, Lauren Alaina, Ray Lewis, Colton Underwood, Eboni K. Williams, Jodie Sweetin, and Mike Singletary. Photo courtesy of CBS.

Other contestants come from the worlds of sports and entertainment. They include: country stars Lauren Alaina, playing for The Next Door, and Craig Morgan, playing for Operation Finally Home; former NBA star Meta World Peace, also known as Meta Sandiford-Artest, for The Artest University; supermodel Paulina Porizkova, for the ACLU Foundation; football player and coach Mike Singletary, for Changing Our Perspective; “Full House” actress Jodie Sweetin for Girls Inc.; former The Bachelor contestant and “Coming Out Colton” personality Colton Underwood, for the Colton Underwood Legacy Foundation; and television personality Eboni K. Williams for Safe Horizons.

On “Survivor” in the USA, the top prize is typically $1 million, although it was $2 million for Season 40. On “Australian Survivor,” the top prize is $500,000 (about $375,000 in U. S. currency), but the government doesn’t take out taxes.

For “Beyond the Edge,” CBS says “nearly three quarters of a million dollars is on the line” in what executive producer Greg Goldman calls “the most extreme celebrity format ever attempted.”

The day before principal photography began, “all of the producers looked at each other with the sinking feeling that this celebrity cast might see where they were living for up to two weeks – the harsh jungles of Panama – and just bolt,” Goldman recalled in CBS’s announcement of the show.

“To the contrary, we were amazed by how these icons pushed themselves to their breaking points, showing incredible mental fortitude and physical tenacity. And all for an incredible cause: To raise money for charities that are near and dear to their hearts.”’

“Why would they do this? It’s much easier to write a check,” Ranallo asks in one of the previews. “It’s because this group of celebrities share a common mission: To prove if we all work together, we can accomplish anything for the greater good.”

The first episode will air at 9 p.m. ET/PT on March 16, right after Survivor, and will also be available to stream on Paramount+.

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Ed Gunts

Ed Gunts is a local freelance writer and the former architecture critic for The Baltimore Sun.