Retiring Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis didn’t make the cover of Sports Illustrated. Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco didn’t earn the coveted spot on the magazine, either.

The SI cover boy of the post-Super Bowl edition?

Jacoby Jones.

Interesting how a kick returner earned that prized spot. Yes, Jones is a wide receiver by trade, but he’s third on the Ravens depth chart behind Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith. He pretty much made his name returning kicks.

Jones certainly made the Super Bowl with one of the most electrifying returns you’ll ever see, taking the second half’s opening kick a record-tying 108 yards, bursting through the wave of Niners defenders and exploding down the field.

And to think, the NFL has done its best to eliminate kick returns due to safety concerns. With kickoffs moved up 5 yards, the relevance of the return game has lessened.

Or has it? Watching the impact Jones had with that scintillating play makes you think twice. Watching what talented and speedy returners have done throughout the playoffs, watching all the game-changing plays, has brought that element of the game up a notch.

Remember Denver’s Trindon Holliday taking two back against the Ravens in their divisional-round matchup?

That’s why it’s once again an issue the Patriots must address during the offseason. With all due respect to Devin McCourty, Danny Woodhead, etc., they are not that type of explosive returner who can turn a game around. Maybe that’s why the Pats beat the competition to sign world-class sprinter Jeff Demps, who spent the year on injured reserve. He may prove to be that dynamic, lights-out returner, but that remains to be seen.

What we know is having a Jones-type player can impact the biggest game of the year on the biggest stage. His performance was not only pivotal to the Ravens’ win, it may have saved kick returns from extinction.