NEW ORLEANS—Fifteen minutes of football. A lifetime of memories.
That sums up the Baltimore Ravens’ final on-field appearance Saturday in preparation for Super Bowl XLVII against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Although footballs were involved, the 15-minute work session inside the Superdome hardly constituted a practice. It more resembled a pep rally and backyard social than a serious walk-through the day before a game.
Approximately 600 family members connected to the Ravens’ organization were on hand to help create a festive atmosphere, including Hall of Fame running back Lenny Moore of the Baltimore Colts. Cameras, video cameras and cell phones worked overtime capturing the big picture for posterity.
Running back Ray Rice playfully tackled his mother, Janet, on the sideline. Wide receiver Anquan Boldin went through his paces wearing an Orioles cap. Guard Marshal Yanda sported a a video camera attached to the top of his Ravens’ cap.
Safety Ed Reed concluded the session with the Saturday tradition of leading the entire Ravens team and a few coaches through a few conditioning drills.
Unquestionably, the Ravens are happy, healthy and hungry, not to mention being extremely loose, heading into “The Big Game.”
And that’s exactly how Ravens’ coach John Harbaugh scripted it.
“It’s the kind of foundation of everything we do,” Harbaugh who walked onto the field with his daughter, Alison. “That has been the whole story line of the whole week. In a sense that’s how we did it growing up, when we were kids. We grew up around dad’s teams.
“Most of the time in the NFL it’s not that way. Most of the time there is the separation of families and it’s considered to be a distraction. I just think the opposite. For me, it’s a distraction when people are more worried about their families not being allowed to be a part of it. When the families are included, the kids get to the know the players, and I think guys have a better sense of well being. I think this is a good example of it right here.”
Asked to summarize his team’s work week in New Orleans, Harbaugh said: “The word I would use is effective. We have been very effective. We’ve gotten everything we’ve needed to get done, that’s the No. 1 thing.
“But it what was not without some adversity, which is always a good thing. With all the stuff we’ve been through this year, it just seemed like a minor bump in the road. Nothing you can’t plow right through and make it work. Usually when stuff like that happens it works out better. I think in some ways it worked out better for us. It has benefited us in some way.”
Harbaugh was referring to his team’s initial practice venue in New Orleans, Tulane University, where the Ravens worked only once on a makeshift football field at the school’s baseball stadium.
Ultimately, Harbaugh and his Ravens shared the New Orleans Saints practice facility with brother Jim and his 49ers on Thursday and Friday.
“The league has an obligation and a desire to make sure the competitive playing field is fair,” John Harbaugh said. “I appreciate Jim cooperating with us. He was great about it. We were great with each other about it. Tulane was great about it, and the league was great about it and, ultimately, made it fair for everybody.”
Harbaugh confirmed that the team would remain at their same hotel Saturday night.
“Everybody will be involved in our message tonight (at the team meeting),” Harbaugh said. “That will be us being us. We have great Saturday night meetings. I think the message we deliver will tie together the season, it will tie together where we’ve been and we’ll also make a statement about where we’re going in this 60-minute football game.”