When the Baltimore Ravens last went to the Super Bowl, Art Modell was the owner, Brian Billick served as head coach and Trent Dilfer was the starting quarterback.
Now, 12 years later, they’re back with owner Steve Bisciotti, Coach John Harbaugh, QB Joe Flacco and one significant link to both teams: Ray Lewis.
Drawing inspiration from Lewis, their long-time middle linebacker, the Baltimore Ravens bullied their way past New England Patriots 28-13 Sunday night to win the AFC championship and set up a matchup with the San Francisco 49ers. The victory finished a long dry spell for a franchise with one Super Bowl appearance in its 17 years of existence.
Lewis was voted Super Bowl MVP after the Ravens beat the New York Giants 34-7 on Jan. 28, 2001. He announced earlier in the month that he would step into retirement after Baltimore completes its current playoff run, and his teammates were determined to make certain that didn’t happen before the Super Bowl.
”Ray is a fellow who’s been here since the start of this franchise,” strong safety Bernard Pollard said. ”He’s a guy who is The Raven. We respect him when he speaks. Everybody stops and everybody hears him. He’s kept this team together, he’s kept this organization together in so many ways.”
Lewis knows what is needed to win. He knows about playing in the Super Bowl. Most of all, he knows how it is possible to get his teammates ready to play with unyielding intensity. Baseball lines
”Everybody knows what kind of player he is and what he’s intended to this team and this organization,” center Matt Birk claimed.
”There’s probably not another leader like him. There is not any one like him, somebody that means as much as he does to this team.
Just everything he’s been through, being here since Day One, and the way that he plays and the emotion and the passion that he plays with. I’ve been his teammate for 4 years, and that is how it is always been.”
Lewis got to the Super Bowl in his 5th season, and then had to delay until his 17th to get back. In between, Modell sold majority ownership of the team to Bisciotti in 2004 and Harbaugh replaced Billick, who was fired after the 2007 season.
Harbaugh on Monday paid homage to Modell, who passed away in September, and voiced praise for the current owner.
”Art Modell is the foundation, the bulwark of this organization,” Harbaugh expounded. ”He and Steve come from the same place, kind of how they see things.”
Dilfer, in the meantime, was released within months of his solid performance in the Super Bowl. He was replaced by Elvis Grbac, who played one season before retiring. The Baltimore then went thru 6 starting quarterbacks, including Anthony Wright, Chris Redman, Kyle Boller and Steve McNair, before drafting Flacco in the first round of the 2008 draft.
Flacco took over as a rookie in the season opener and has started every game since.
One day after throwing three touchdown passes and outplaying New England quarterback Tom Brady, Flacco couldn’t fully comprehend the enormity size of going to the Super Bowl.