Tag Archive | "Super Bowl XLVII"

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WNST’s Aparicio to take part in football roundtable Sept. 17 at Sports Legends

Posted on 21 August 2013 by WNST Staff

SPORTS LEGENDS MUSEUM AT CAMDEN YARDS TO HOST FOOTBALL ROUNDTABLE WITH LOCAL MEDIA ON SEPTEMBER 17th

Baltimore Media Members to Provide Insight on 2013 Baltimore Ravens Season

Baltimore, Md. – Sports Legends Museum at Camden Yards today announced that it will host a football roundtable discussion on Tuesday, September 17 from Noon to 1:30 p.m. with members of the local sports media.

The panel of Baltimore media experts will consist of  Pete Gilbert (WBAL-TV, WBAL Radio, 98 Rock & Ravens Broadcast Team); Bruce Cunningham (Fox 45 Sports Director & Public Address Announcer at  M&T Bank Stadium); Nestor Aparicio (WNST Founder &  Author of Purple Reign and Purple Reign 2); and Jeff Zrebiec (The Baltimore Sun). The panelists will discuss the Ravens off-season moves, provide their insight & predictions for the 2013 season and take questions from members of the audience.

“There is an excitement building as the Ravens prepare to kickoff their 2013 campaign, especially after winning the Super Bowl last season ,” said Mike Gibbons, executive director of the Babe Ruth Birthplace Foundation.  “Baltimoreans  love talking football, so we thought this roundtable would be a great opportunity for the media who cover the team and fans to come together to share their thoughts on the Ravens initial start to the season and the long-term outlook for 2013.”

Tickets for the program are $25.00 and include lunch, the roundtable program and admission to the galleries at Sports Legends Museum.  Attendees will have the opportunity to see the latest additions to the Ravens Gallery featuring new artifacts from the  Super Bowl XLVII Championship season. Artifacts include Ravens Kicker Justin Tucker’s cleats worn during Super Bowl XLVII; Ravens Defensive End Arthur Jones’ jersey (#97) worn during the Wild Card game against the Indianapolis Colts; a reproduction Super Bowl XLVII ring that is an exact replica of the one presented to Joe Flacco with his name and “MVP” engraved on the side; and more.

To order tickets, please contact Ashley Serano at 410-727-1539 x3013 or AshleyS@BabeRuthMuseum.org.

About The Babe Ruth Birthplace Foundation
The Babe Ruth Birthplace Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving and celebrating the legacy of Maryland’s rich sports heritage.  The Foundation owns and operates both Sports Legends Museum at Camden Yards and the Babe Ruth Birthplace.  Located adjacent to Oriole Park, Sports Legends Museum at Camden Yards opened in May 2005 and consists of 22,000 square feet of artifacts and interactive exhibits profiling Maryland’s sports history.  Among the items featured in the Museum’s Ravens’ Gallery are the Super Bowl jerseys of Jonathan Ogden and Matt Stover, as well as the football from the team’s first home game.

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You couldn’t ask for a better year for Dad

Posted on 16 June 2013 by Luke Jones

“My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person; he believed in me.” – Jim Valvano

As we spend the day honoring our fathers, grandfathers, or any man who’s embraced the enormous responsibility of being called “Dad,” it’s easy to reflect on what was a great year for Dad if he’s a Baltimore sports fan.

Perhaps you were lucky enough to cherish the Orioles’ first playoff appearance in 15 years with the man who held your hand as he walked you through the gate at Memorial Stadium or Oriole Park at Camden Yards countless times or sat down to watch with you on TV or just happened to put the ballgame on the radio as he drove you nowhere in particular. Witnessing a raucous and packed Camden Yards wave rally towels for Games 1 and 2 of the American League Division Series was as good as it gets after 14 seasons largely filled with misery and eventual apathy.

The Ravens’ second Super Bowl championship undoubtedly meant more if you can remember your father crying when the Colts skipped town in the middle of the night or you spent a large portion of your childhood wondering with Dad if Baltimore would ever get another NFL team as autumn Sundays were all too quiet for far too many years. Whether you made the once-in-a-lifetime trip to New Orleans or celebrated at home with the rest of Charm City as Joe Flacco, Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, and John Harbaugh raised the Vince Lombardi Trophy, the feeling accompanying that bear hug, high five, or glowing smile will never be forgotten by those fortunate enough to share them with their fathers.

It was the perfect way to bid farewell to Lewis, who was the omnipresent figure teaching Baltimore to “raise the roof” and to remember what it felt like to have an NFL team in the infancy of the franchise and making an improbable return from injury for the “last ride” of his career, entering the pantheon of the city’s all-time best sports figures over the last 17 years.

The last 12 months have been a wonderful time to spend with Dad, but many weren’t able to share those special memories with the man holding so much influence over not just their Baltimore sports fandom but in other aspects of their lives. For those individuals, his presence may no longer be here physically, but his spirit lives on through every pitch and each snap, the cheers and moments of disappointment, and with each breath his son or daughter takes.

I once heard someone say that when you lose your father at a young age, you spend the rest of your life trying to make him proud. Truer words have never been spoken if you’ve found yourself in that unenviable position, regardless of how old you might be.

Sunday marked the ninth Father’s Day I’ve spent without my dad, but his smile and embrace were felt as strongly as ever while watching what transpired on the Baltimore sports scene over the last year.

Many landing in this wonderful but difficult business of sports media will point to the influence their father had in sharing a love for sports, writing, or both at an early age. My dad didn’t live long enough to see me take the unique path to where I am today that began with five rewarding years working in public education, continued with a unique media competition at WNST.net, and eventually turned into a full-time opportunity to cover the local teams with which I grew up. But he’s the biggest reason why I’m doing what I love today and he – along with my mom, of course – was my biggest fan in whatever I tried to accomplish.

I miss his physical presence and voice every day after nearly nine years without him, but I know he’s been right there with me along the way, starting with the first Ravens game I attended without him in 2004 when I sobbed uncontrollably just six days after he died – the emotion came immediately after Reed returned an interception 106 yards for a touchdown in the closing seconds to wrap up a victory against Cleveland — and continuing each time I walk into the press box or cover another training camp practice in the sweltering heat of Owings Mills in August.

Your perspective changes when you work in media as you get to know athletes and coaches – for better or worse – and remember the obligatory rule of no cheering in the press box. You have a job to do, so the manner in which you watch and enjoy games changes from your previous experiences as a fan. What was once only a passion becomes a profession, with responsibilities that accompany such an awesome job.

But it doesn’t change how you feel inside, especially when you had the kind of relationship I enjoyed with my father through the first 21 years of my life. There isn’t a time that I’m walking to my car after a late night at Camden Yards or an afternoon at M&T Bank Stadium in which I don’t think of Dad, silently asking him what he thought of the game.

I can almost hear his opinions on Flacco, Harbaugh, Adam Jones, and Manny Machado even though each of those individuals came along years after his passing. And I know I’m not alone in sharing the sentiment that my late father has enjoyed the best seat in the house over this last year in particular.

What a year it was, Dad.

As the Orioles were on the verge of clinching their first postseason berth since 1997, one of the most unique scenes of the year occurred on the final home date of the regular season. Moments after a win over the Boston Red Sox, manager Buck Showalter and his club of talented but unproven players mixed with a few journeymen stood on the field watching a game between the Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Angels on the video board, with the outcome determining whether the Orioles would officially clinch a spot that afternoon or would need to wait a little longer.

It was a unique scene in which players and coaches transformed into fans just like the 41,000 gathered at the ballpark that afternoon. And it was a moment that brought a lump in my throat and moisture in my eyes as I thought of the countless games at the ballpark with my dad, who served as an usher for nine years at Memorial Stadium and was with me for virtually every game I attended through 2004.

I could remember the many times talking to him when I was away for college at Syracuse and how he’d inevitably fit into every conversation, “The Orioles still stink.” Truthfully, the language was a bit more colorful, but it was a running joke to mask the annual disappointment we both held.

In that moment sitting in the press box on that Sunday afternoon, I thought to myself, “Not anymore.”

Lucky enough to be at Yankee Stadium to cover the ALDS last October, I wore my favorite shirt to Game 5, a maroon polo that belonged to my dad and my grandfather before him. The color has faded to more of a light salmon and it has a few more holes around the collar and shoulders than I’d like to admit, but the shirt was the only garment of choice as the Orioles were unfortunately eliminated in a highly competitive series in which fans could still be proud of the club’s remarkable season.

A few months later, I wore the same shirt as I settled into my seat in the auxiliary press box at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome for Super Bowl XLVII. Coincidence or not, there was something fitting about the seat to my left somehow remaining empty throughout the game as I thought back to 12 years earlier and the giant hug shared with my dad as we watched the closing seconds of Super Bowl XXXV on TV. I remembered the many conversations about our dream of one day attending a Super Bowl together and hoping we would get the chance.

As the confetti fell and I quickly made my way downstairs for post-game interviews, I felt the same lump in my throat and moisture in my eyes that I did on that final day of September in Baltimore a few months earlier.

I suppose it wasn’t exactly how we pictured it, but we did make it to a Super Bowl, Dad.

It would be difficult to ask for a better sports year as we spent Sunday honoring our fathers in various ways. Whether you took him to the ballpark or got together to watch the Orioles on TV, shared a meal, called him on the telephone, or simply spent a few moments lost in memory, I can only wish and pray you’re as lucky as I was – and still am — to have had such a wonderful dad.

His love of Baltimore sports and, more importantly, the valuable life lessons he offered about what it meant to be a man, a compassionate friend, a devoted husband, and a father are ones I remember and still try to fully grasp as I approach my 30th birthday and dream of one day having a family of my own.

Whenever someone who knew him tells me how much I resemble him, I smile proudly after once cringing at that notion when I was a teenager — though I’ll promise to refrain from growing his trademark mustache.

I feel his presence at every game, imagining him chomping on peanuts or popcorn while making a mess, and it makes me smile far more often than I cry all these years later.

I’ll never stop trying to make him proud, hopefully experiencing a few more years like this past one along the way.

I hope you enjoyed it, Dad.

I know I did.

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Your definitive look at the Super Bowl XLVII championship ring

Posted on 07 June 2013 by WNST Staff

Without being able to hold one in your hand, here’s the most definitive look you’ll find of the Ravens’ new Super Bowl XLVII championship rings, courtesy of Jostens:

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Your first look at the Ravens’ Super Bowl ring

Posted on 07 June 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

With the Ravens set to receive their Super Bowl XLVII championship rings Friday night, the anticipation over how the piece of jewelry will look is finally over.

Adam Schefter of ESPN tweeted a picture earlier this afternoon, with this ring resembling the Super Bowl XXXV version with the Ravens logo featured strongly. You can also see the two Lombardi Trophies behind the side profile of the bird, representing the organization’s two titles.

Here’s what the franchise’s Super Bowl XXXV ring looked like:
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Members of the organization will receive their rings at a ceremony held at the team’s training facility in Owings Mills as numerous players have expressed their excitement for weeks.

“When it comes to actually seeing the rings, for somebody like me who’s never won a thing, I might act like a woman when she sees her engagement ring,” wide receiver Torrey Smith said. “I can’t wait. I can’t wait.”

Your thoughts on the Super Bowl XLVII championship ring? An upgrade or downgrade from the first one?

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Smith

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D&L Window Tinting Morning Reaction Tuesday Top 7 – Looking back at Super Bowl XLVII

Posted on 04 June 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

In honor of the Baltimore Ravens visiting the White House and receiving their Super Bowl rings this week as well as the official release of “Purple Reign 2” by Nestor Aparicio, The D&L Window Tinting Morning Reaction took a look back at what was the magical 2012 season in this week’s Tuesday Top 7.

Luke Jones offered his top 7 favorite moments of the Super Bowl season while Drew Forrester named his top 7 most important factors contributing to the championship. You can hear Jones’ explanation HERE while you can hear Forrester’s portion HERE.

Luke Jones’ Top 7 Favorite Moments …

7) Torrey Smith’s performance in Week 3 less than 24 hours after his brother’s tragic death
Smith

6) Defeating Pittsburgh at Heinz Field for the third straight year
Jones

5) Fourth and 29
Rice

4) Ray Lewis’ final game in Baltimore
Lewis

3) The Prayer in Thin Air
Flacco

2) Joe Flacco and Anquan Boldin taking over in the second half in Foxborough
Boldin

1) Jacoby Jones’ 108-yard kickoff return to begin the second half in New Orleans
jones

Drew Forrester’s Top 7 Most Important Factors …

CONTINUE ON NEXT PAGE >>>>>

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Ravens’ SB ring to include elements from season, franchise history

Posted on 15 May 2013 by WNST Staff

Baltimore Ravens Select Jostens to Create the Team’s Super Bowl XLVII Championship Ring
Minneapolis, MN – May 14, 2013The Baltimore Ravens today announced that Jostens has been selected to create the team’s Super Bowl XLVII Championship Ring, which will capture the story of the Ravens exciting World Championship victory. Ravens’ players and leadership have been collaborating with Jostens master jewelers to design and produce custom Championship Rings for players and members of the Ravens organization. The design of the ring celebrates the 2012 season, while also paying tribute to the rich tradition of one of footballs’ most successful franchises.

“We’ve enjoyed working with Jostens on the creation of our Super Bowl XLVII Championship Rings,” commented Ravens President, Dick Cass. “We have created a beautiful ring that I believe everyone in the organization will be proud to wear, and we look forward to presenting them and seeing our team’s reactions.”

The one-of-a-kind ring recognizes the Ravens remarkable 2012 season and marks the 2nd time that the Ravens have brought the Lombardi Trophy to Baltimore. Elements from the season and the franchise’s history will be incorporated into the ring’s final design, truly symbolizing the success of the team and the Ravens organization.

“Jostens is honored to have the opportunity to work with the Baltimore Ravens again to design and produce their Super Bowl Championship Ring,” said Chris Poitras, Director, Sports Sales and Marketing, Jostens. “Working closely with the Ravens players and team leadership, Jostens is creating a stunning ring that blends the team’s achievement with the Ravens’ championship history and tradition.”

The Ravens are also excited to announce that they are working closely with the Master Jewelers at Jostens to create a collection of jewelry and items especially for Raven Fans. The limited edition collection will debut to fans the evening of the Ravens’ Ring Ceremony and be inspired by the Super Bowl XLVII Championship Ring. The Baltimore Ravens and Jostens are excited to partner to extend this opportunity to celebrate the championship season and thrilling victory over the San Francisco 49ers.

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Jacoby Jones gets big scores, advances to finals of DWTS

Posted on 14 May 2013 by WNST Staff

After a weekend hospital scare for partner Karina Smirnoff, Baltimore Ravens WR/KR Jacoby Jones put together his best overall week of the season on ABC’s “Dancing With The Stars”. First up was the Argentine Tango, which earned the Super Bowl XLVII hero his first ever perfect score of 30/30.

Later in the show ABC aired interview pieces with many people from Jones’ life, including Ravens head coach John Harbaugh, WR Torrey Smith and former Ravens LB Ray Lewis. He then performed the Lindy Hop, bringing in a score of 29/30 from the judges.

On Tuesday night’s show Jones found out he had advanced to next week’s finals as soap star Ingo Rademacher was eliminated. Also advancing to the finals are Disney Channel star Zendaya Coleman, county singer Kellie Pickler and Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman.

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Waiting no gamble at all in Flacco’s eyes as he finally cashes in

Posted on 04 March 2013 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — It’s been the narrative opening uttered over and over this month as Joe Flacco won a Super Bowl and then signed a $120.6 million deal to become the highest-paid player in NFL history.

The Ravens quarterback took a major gamble and won — or that’s what makes the story sound juicier.

Believed to be offered a contract in the neighborhood of $16 million per season last summer, Flacco didn’t think he was being reckless or risking much of anything after he had led the Ravens to a playoff win in each of his first four seasons and hadn’t missed a single game due to injury. His reason for walking away from general manager Ozzie Newsome’s best offer was quite simple.

And it had nothing to do with being a riverboat gambler.

“I thought I was worth more,” said Flacco, who viewed a serious injury as the only real risk in playing out his contract. “I didn’t really see any circumstances where I wouldn’t end up getting paid more than what they were willing to give me at that point. It wasn’t like I was going to make any different salary last year than I was making already [other than] I might have gotten some upfront money.

“I figured play one more year and see what we could do as a football team. Have confidence in myself, have confidence in the guys around me, and just let it play itself out from there.”

It played out perfectly for the 28-year-old as he took his $6.76 million salary in the final year of his rookie contract and completed one of the best postseason runs in NFL history by throwing for 11 touchdowns and no interceptions, resulting in wins over two of the league’s all-time great quarterbacks along the way and leading the Ravens to their second NFL championship.

Flacco figured the original offer — claimed by owner Steve Bisciotti to be in the range of the top 5 quarterbacks in the league — would remain on the table at worst but said his opinion of his own value would have remained as high as what he ultimately received, regardless of how the postseason played out for Baltimore. In his eyes, becoming a Super Bowl MVP didn’t transcend what he had already meant to the franchise.

“If we didn’t win the Super Bowl this year, I still think I’m worth the same and I still think I’m the same person to this organization,” Flacco said. “It may not be seen that way, but that’s the bottom line. I still think I give the team the best chance to win moving forward, whether we won or lost this year. I think it makes it a little easier for Steve to reach into his pockets having said that we won the Super Bowl. People don’t have to look at him as crazy as they may have if he had given me this much last year.”

We’ll never know how the Ravens ultimately would have valued their franchise quarterback this offseason had they not made it to New Orleans or triumphed in Super Bowl XLVII, but it’s a hypothetical question general manager Ozzie Newsome is glad he doesn’t need to answer. Forking over the richest contract in NFL history is easier to swallow as you’re awaiting your second Super Bowl ring in the last 13 seasons.

And that’s not to mention any of the bad memories of searching many years for a franchise quarterback, sifting through first-round busts, declining veterans, and a number of projects and placeholders who didn’t pan out. The feeling of being stuck in the quarterback abyss was not a pleasant one for a franchise with a championship-caliber defense for nearly a decade before finally striking it rich with the University of Delaware product.

“We just returned from the [NFL scouting combine], and I remember the days of going there and studying and hoping that one of the quarterbacks could be our guy,” Newsome said in a team statement. “‘Could so-and-so be our third-round Joe Montana or our sixth-round Tom Brady?’ We’ve been out in that desert before. That all changed when we drafted Joe in 2008.”

Some critics have dismissed Flacco’s accomplishments over the four-game postseason run, citing the gaffe by Broncos safety Rahim Moore on Jacoby Jones’ 70-yard touchdown at the end of regulation in the divisional-round win in Denver.

Key changes such as the elevation of Jim Caldwell to offensive coordinator and the insertion of Bryant McKinnie at the left tackle position, the improved health of several key players, and even good fortune were all important factors creating the necessary momentum for Flacco and the Ravens to reach the top of the mountain.

It started with a dismantling of the New York Giants in Week 16, continued with the luxury of resting starters in the regular-season finale in Cincinnati, and snowballed after a wild-card playoff win against Indianapolis in the returning Ray Lewis’ final home game. Before they knew it, the Ravens were raising the Lombardi Trophy in the Superdome and Flacco was named Super Bowl MVP.

“There are a lot of things that happened late in the season that if they hadn’t happened, we probably wouldn’t have won the Super Bowl,” Flacco said. “But they did. I’ve always said that there’s definitely a little bit of luck involved in winning the thing. It’s about the team that gets hot at the right time.”

The record-setting contract awarded to Flacco resulted in a perfect storm of his strong play, the financial difficulties by way of the salary cap, and a little bit of luck.

That’s not a knock on the quarterback, who played his best football over the most important four-week span of his career. The six-year deal will inevitably be revised as it’s structured to essentially be a three-year contract before cap numbers spiral out of control.

But it’s put Flacco on track to finish his career with the Ravens.

“That’s the plan,” Flacco said. “I can’t see it happening any other way.”

It’d be tough to bet against him on that one.

As he taught us this season, it’s not really gambling if you know what you’re doing.

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Suggs: Ravens defense yet to “hand out stripes” in post-Lewis era

Posted on 27 February 2013 by Luke Jones

Long before the Ravens marched to their second Super Bowl title, many wondered which player would ultimately accept the torch passed on from Ray Lewis after his 17 years as leader of the vaunted Baltimore defense.

And now that the last of the confetti has fallen and the Ravens look ahead to life without the future Hall of Famer, linebacker Terrell Suggs admits he’s still not giving too much thought to a defense sans Lewis. The uncertain future of free-agent safety Ed Reed has led many to anoint Suggs as the logical replacement as the spiritual leader of the unit.

According to the 30-year-old linebacker in an interview on AM 1570 WNST on Wednesday, there will be a time this offseason to delegate responsibilities within the defense.

Just not yet.

“I haven’t really thought about it,” Suggs said. “I didn’t want to rob myself or my teammates of what we just accomplished together. There’s going to come a time where we’re going to hand out stripes and assignments and jobs and what have you, but right now, we’re just all still on this magic carpet ride just enjoying it. We don’t want to rob each other talking about who’s the defense’s next leader.”

Regardless of how the Ravens solve the gigantic dilemma of replacing Lewis’ leadership, they apparently will have a fully-healthy Suggs, who confirmed he will not undergo surgery to repair the torn right biceps suffered against the Pittsburgh Steelers in early December. That injury coupled with the partially-torn Achilles tendon suffered last spring limited Suggs to eight games and a career-low two sacks in 2012.

The Ravens hope a full offseason for the 2011 Defensive Player of the Year will mean a more productive version of the rush linebacker, who is schedule to carry a $13.02 million salary cap number in the penultimate season of a six-year, $62.5 million contract signed in the summer of 2009. Suggs will be counted upon to regain his 2011 form to offset the anticipated departure of pass-rushing specialist Paul Kruger in free agency.

Suggs collected 25 sacks and nine fumbles combined in the two seasons prior to the Achilles tendon injury last offseason. Initially feared to be lost for the season, Suggs returned by mid-October to provide a much-needed presence for the defense despite lacking the same explosiveness he enjoyed before the injury. The torn biceps injury cost Suggs another game in December before the veteran decided to push through the injury.

The 2003 first-round pick says he will be 100 percent for training camp instead of spending his summer days rehabbing like he did last year.

“I feel great; I went to see the doctor about the whole biceps thing,” Suggs said. “He said it’s strong enough that I don’t need surgery. That was good news because I didn’t want to be down for three, four months again. I get to hit the offseason full-stride with a clear vision.

“Now that I have the Lombardi and I have all those awards, I can go into the offseason with no pressure whatsoever and kind of just enjoy it.”

Currently promoting “The Coalition,” a film co-written and produced by the five-time Pro Bowl selection, Suggs quipped that he wouldn’t have bought into the unbelievable story of his championship team had someone tried to sell him the script prior to the season.

Instead, the linebacker enjoyed the first-person account.

“To finally get that done, just thinking of everything we’ve been through since I entered the league in 2003, it was just like, ‘Finally, you’re a champion,’” said Suggs, who joked that he’s now trying to buy the movie rights for the story of the Ravens’ run to Super Bowl XLVII. “I can’t describe it. I will never be able to. It was amazing to do it with my teammates.”

After tasting Super Bowl glory, Suggs will now adjust to playing without the man he affectionately called “The General” for the first time in his professional career. Whether he’s ready to assume Lewis’ gigantic shoes remains to be seen, but Suggs knows the defense won’t soon forget the expectations and vision largely cultivated by Lewis over the first 17 years of the franchise.

It’s a legacy that must be carried on as the veteran prepares for his 11th season in Baltimore.

“No matter what happens in the future, Ray Lewis’ presence will always be felt in that locker room [and] on that field,” Suggs said. “Our defense will still be held to a certain standard.”

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Ravens center Birk walks away after 15 NFL seasons, first Super Bowl triumph

Posted on 22 February 2013 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — After a 15-year NFL career and finally winning a Super Bowl earlier this month, Ravens center Matt Birk figured it was the perfect time and setting to reveal he was walking away from the game.

In lieu of a fancier press conference at the team’s Owings Mills facility next week, the 36-year-old offensive lineman announced his retirement on Friday morning while dedicating a literacy center at Battle Grove Elementary School in Dundalk. Wearing a t-shirt with the slogan “Finish Everything,” Birk couldn’t specify a time when he made his final decision but spoke to head coach John Harbaugh for roughly an hour last weekend and said he hadn’t made up his mind at that point. He phoned the coach and general manager Ozzie Newsome on Thursday afternoon to reveal his decision.

Taking questions from the Battle Grove students before opening up to the gathered media, Birk was asked why he was retiring. The quick-witted center didn’t disappoint in laying out his answer.

“Why am I retiring? I’m old, I have six kids, and it’s just time. I really enjoyed football. I got to play for a long time. I’ve been very fortunate, but I just feel like it’s time to do something else.”

Birk spent the last four seasons with the Ravens after playing for his hometown Minnesota Vikings for the first 11 years of his career. Named to six Pro Bowls in his career, the Harvard University graduate was selected in the sixth round of the 1998 draft and earned his first championship in being part of the Ravens’ 34-31 win over the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII on Feb. 3.

It was the perfect ending for a career that began with Birk struggling to make the Vikings’ 53-man roster in 1998 and ended with the grizzled veteran celebrating with teammates and his family on the turf of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans after finally reaching the pinnacle of the NFL for the first time.

“You can’t ask for anything more,” said Birk, who went to work out at the Ravens’ practice facility a final time Friday morning. “It is a great way to end it, but like I said, no one’s entitled to a Super Bowl. Certainly not me. I was just so grateful and fortunate that I was able to be part of this team. It is a special team and the run that we made — the championship that we won — is something that I’ll never forget. I was telling [Harbaugh], you get a reason to come back and get together and relive those days. You’re forever linked, and that’s pretty cool.”

Despite playing well this past season, Birk was expected by many to retire to spend more time with his family as the father of six children. He said Friday that his wife Adrianna had offered her blessing for him to continue playing if he wanted to return next season. Birk signed a three-year, $8.525 million contract after contemplating retirement last offseason, but the deal was structured in a way that many expected the longtime lineman to either retire or be released after the first year of the deal.

Asked whether he thought he had anything left in the tank to continue playing if he desired, Birk quipped that no one would be able to find out the truth.

“It doesn’t matter what I think,” said Birk as he laughed. “Anyone who wants to challenge me, yeah, I’ll tell them [I can still play] because there’s no way you’re going to find out. It was great. Last year, I felt great and that was a blessing. It’s a physical game; it’s a violent game. I was able to feel good about what I put out there on the field. It was just a good way for me to end.”

The Ravens will save $2.05 million in salary cap space with Birk’s retirement, which will provide some relief as they deal with limited space and hope to work out a long-term contract with quarterback Joe Flacco. Baltimore drafted Delaware’s Gino Gradkowski in the fourth round of last year’s draft with the intention that he’d eventually take over for Birk.

The retiring center expressed confidence that Gradkowski would be ready to take over at center in his second professional season.

“Gino will be fine. The biggest thing about football is it’s a character game because it’s hard,” Birk said of his 2012 understudy. “It’s different from other sports. Gino’s got that. He’s a great guy. Gino will do whatever it takes to be successful.”

Birk was named the NFL’s 2011 Walter Payton Man of the Year for his work in the community, which includes his HIKE foundation to improve literacy. His foundation’s goal is to “impact the lives of at-risk children by providing interactive programs and resources needed to guide a child through the key educational transitions between elementary, middle, high school and college.”

Several teammates expressed congratulations to Birk via social media on Friday morning as the veteran was considered one of the leaders in the locker room in a different way from the demonstrative and vocal leadership of Ray Lewis, who was the first member of the championship team to announce his retirement back in January.

Birk was touched by messages posted on Twitter from several teammates including Vonta Leach, Jameel McClain, and Torrey Smith.

“That means a lot,” Birk said. “You play the game for a lot of reasons, but the respect of your opponent and more so the respect of your teammates is probably the biggest thing you’re shooting for.”

Cognizant of player safety concerns in the NFL, Birk has said he will donate his brain to Boston University’s School of Medicine for research into concussions.

His post-football intentions remain unclear, but the Minnesota native predicted Baltimore hasn’t seen the last of him by any shot.

“I’ll continue to advocate for player safety and retired players’ rights — now that I am a retired player,” Birk said. “We’ll see. I don’t have any plans for what’s next. I certainly didn’t plan on playing football for 15 years. Kind of not having a plan has worked out for me so far. I’m going to stay with it.”

Making the difficult decision to leave the hometown team he grew up rooting for following the 2008 season certainly wasn’t part of any plan, but he was immediately impressed with Harbaugh’s vision for the Ravens despite the coach having only finished his first season in Baltimore.

It’s safe to say the gamble paid off in choosing a new football home after 11 seasons in Minnesota.

“At the time, I just said, ‘[With] the limited information I have about the Ravens, I’m going to bet on this guy and I’m going to come here,'” said Birk, who labeled Harbaugh a friend first and foremost. “I’m sure glad I did. From the beginning, the organization and the city just welcomed us with open arms.

“I don’t need to tell anybody what this team means to this city. It’s definitely a special connection. To have the honor of playing here for four years and playing under coach Harbaugh and his staff, it was truly an honor.”

 

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