The Baltimore Ravens got to town Monday afternoon, arriving at their hotel and meeting with the press to kick things off. They arrived a day later than the 49ers, but given that it's still the beginning of the week, I can't imagine it's going to impact anything. I was asked in a radio interview about that difference, but I just don't see it. They came from one time zone east, while the 49ers came from two time zones west, and again, even jet lag should not be an issue.
We've got all the Ravens comments below. Additionally, if you missed it yesterday, I dropped in some video I put together after I got to town yesterday. I'm going to be doing a daily video diary just to give you a little taste of the Super Bowl. I'll have some other video mixed in, so hopefully people enjoy it.
HEAD COACH JOHN HARBAUGH
(opening statement) "Good to see everybody. Thanks for coming out. This is pretty cool, this is pretty exciting. We're really excited to be here, we're thrilled to be here. On behalf of the Baltimore Ravens, the entire organization, the city, the greater Baltimore area, Maryland, Ravens fans everywhere, we're proud to be participants in the Super Bowl. We're going to do our best to play our best in this game. We had an incredible sendoff down at the Inner Harbor this afternoon on our way to the airport. We had thousands, I'm not sure how many thousands, but lots of thousands of people there in a cold drizzle, on a January, Chesapeake Bay, afternoon. And they were there all morning waiting for us and they just went crazy. So we just had a great time doing that. Our organization, our Ravens staff putting together this trip has been flawless. Thanks to them for what they did. We have a great organization, led by Steve Bisciotti, and they did a great job. We're just excited to be here and we're looking forward to going to work. We had a good practice this morning, we had meetings this morning, practice this morning, things that we would sometimes do in the afternoon we did in the morning so we had our normal Monday. We're on schedule and we're going to work."
(on what are the advantages and disadvantages of taking a week off) "Well there's always work to do. There will be work to do right up until game time. We've laid out most of our plans now so we'll be fine tuning what we're doing trying to improve every single day and be our best on Sunday."
(on the story behind the ‘What's my name?' mantra) "Well, the germination of the ‘What's my name?' goes back to, we were probably seven years old when we first heard the story and that's Jack Harbaugh telling the story. I think it was the Ernie Terrell fight, Mohammed Ali and Ernie Terrell when Mohammed Ali had just changed his name from Cassius Clay to Mohammed Ali, and it was about respect. We were blessed to have Lonnie (Williams) and Mohammed to our training camp, it was actually the day right before we played the Cincinnati Bengals in the opener and they visited our players and spent time with our players. My dad was in the middle of telling the story when Mohammed and Lonnie drove up in a golf cart and the players went crazy, ‘The champ! It's the champ!' We had a chance to get pictures. The really neat thing about Mohammed Ali's that he spent a lot of time with the kids. We had a lot of player's kids there and coaches kids were there and he spent a lot of time with them. So that's kind of where it comes from."
(on the hiring of Juan Castillo) "Juan Castillo is a guy that I've known for a long time. Had a chance to work with him in Philadelphia for 10 years. Just a tremendous football coach, had a lot of experience on different sides of the ball. He's going to work with our offense, he's in a consultant's role for this game. He'll be on the staff going forward after this game. He's just been adding whatever he can. He's got another set of eyes on the game plan and is working with our players a little bit. He'll play a role for us."
(on what coach has inspired him the most other than his father) "Well looking at you I think of Tom Crean right away. Stand up for the cameras so they can take a look at you, you're a Tom Crean look alike. You know, you talk about Bo Schembechler. We grew up with Coach Schembechler, and (with) Bo, Woody (Hayes), ‘The Ten Year War', all those kinds of things, That's a foundation for all of us. I would say Jim (Harbaugh) probably, and Tom. Those are the guys we talk to almost every single day during the offseason and sometimes during the season just about coaching and issues we have. So we try to keep it in the family."
(on what it was like playing youth hockey against his brother growing up) "I stutter right away when I think about it I guess. Playing any sport with Jim (Harbaugh) growing up was a test of will for all of us. Jim was ahead of his time, he was bigger and stronger than all the kids his age. He didn't hang out with kids his age too much he hung out with me and my friends all the time. He was good enough to take it to us on a pretty regular basis. Youth hockey in Ann Arbor, it's big in Michigan. We played hockey, we played basketball, we wrestled. We played seven sports when I was in seventh grade. For one year we played them all, whatever sport was in season we were at practice. I'm not sure what the thinking was, but now that I have kids I think I can figure it out. Jim was a great competitor. If you played hockey with Jim, you got bounced around. That was true for pretty much any sport though."
(on the changes he made on the offensive line) "Well the "Smith brothers", obviously we think they're two great players. They're related by their greatness as football players and they work so well together over there and it would be our left side most of the time. It's going to be a big challenge for us. It's been a big challenge for everybody they've played. The offensive line situation has evolved for us. Jah Reid got hurt; he's a good up and coming young player. Bryant McKinnie was working his way off some injuries throughout the course of the year and he was really coming out at the end of the year for us. He played exceptionally well in practice down the stretch there and he's played really well, I think the timing has been perfect. You just can't make the timing up sometimes. The timing has been really amazing as far as him going in there and playing so well and we're just so proud of that. So him and (nose tackle) (Ma'ake) Kemoteatu on that side will have their hands full but we believe they're up to the challenge."
(on his experience with the Philadelphia Eagles and anything he took from Super Bowl XXXIX ) "It's been a long time and I don't have the memory stick going that well right now, but (Andy Reid) left me a book this thick for Super Bowl playing. That's Andy; that's meticulous. I think the experience of going through the Super Bowl experience one time is positive for a coach, and it's positive for a player. You have a sense of the timing a little bit. You understand how the week goes. You understand the distractions, the potential distractions, and you understand the timeline for the game as much as anything. That will be a plus, but they're all different. I remember it was Jacksonville; it was kind of cold that week. That's the biggest memory I have of that week. And the fact that we did not win, you never forget that."
(on whether it has all set in yet) "It really set in on the bus ride down the interstate on the way to Providence from Gillette Stadium. That's when it set in. We already knew our opponent so that was kind of embedded in our minds. It was time to get ready at that point. We've been getting ready for these guys for weeks so we understand the challenge. It's the Super Bowl, it's a big deal, we're very excited about that. We're going to enjoy that part of it, but enjoy the football part of it more than anything. Our guys are football players, they love football, they love everything that goes with it and that's what we'll be focused on."
(on whether he has any problem with the team trash talking) "You've seen us play so you know how we do it. Our guys are class guys. We'll play with character, we'll play with class, we'll be a tough, hard-nosed football team - that's the way we'll play. Before the game, after the game, I think we're very respectful of our opponents, we always have been, and our opponents have respected us over the years. The team we're playing is built the same way. We've got a lot of respect for the 49ers. We've got a lot of respect for their coach, the coaching staff, their players, and I expect it to be played in that way."
(on what the plane ride was like) "It was like all of our plane rides. It was fun to start with and then as soon as the plane took off they quieted down, the lights went down, you grab something to eat and most of them fell asleep. When the plane landed they woke up and they were ready to go. It seems like that's how it works for the most part. But they were excited. I think the thing in Baltimore, in the Inner Harbor, was a big deal. That's something we all were surprised by a little bit. The fans were crazy, they had the music going, there were thousands of people there and they were doing the Ravens chant that they do. We were all pretty excited on the way to the airport about that."
(on what he has seen from quarterback Joe Flacco in terms of how in sync he is with his receivers) "I think the passing game is, the precision part of it has improved a little bit lately. Those guys have done a good job with that. Joe has been good. The protection has been tremendous so Joe has had time to push the ball down field a little bit, that may be the most important part of it. But that's been a work in progress all year and I think we've improved steadily throughout the course of the season. Even throughout some of the tough times we have continued to improve and showed up at the playoffs."
(on safety Ed Reed and what he has meant for the team) "Ed is a huge part of what we do. He's from down here in New Orleans so we've had a chance to meet his family and things like that. He's a staple. I think (linebacker) Ray Lewis gets a lot of the attention, and rightly so, he's been with the organization from 1996 on, but Ed's been here 11 years now. Ed is a fixture in Baltimore. He's a fixture in the community with kids. He's huge in different schools around the city; he brings kids to practice all the time. He's a mentor for our players, particularly the players in the back in the defense but really our whole football team. He's a spiritual leader, he's an emotional leader, and he's a big part of who we are."
(on whether he has a psychological advantage being older and whether him and his brother have similar fashion sense) "No. The khakis and the fleece are new to Jim since he got to San Francisco, but it's a good look for him. He has shared with me that it cuts down on drag time in the morning, he has fewer decisions to make. Pretty much all coaches are in sweats anyway during the course of the season. My wife picked this out, thank you very much, I appreciate that. Psychological advantages - I'm not aware of any. I'm not too sure about all of that. We know each other pretty well, there's no secrets."
(on his thoughts on President Barack Obama's comment that he wouldn't let his kids play football) "I don't agree with that but I like Jim's comment. Jim said that (Jim's son) little Jack is going to be playing football, right? That's one less kid to compete with. I like that comment. Football is a great game. Anybody that's played the game knows what a great game it is. What it provides for young people, what it provides for people like me is an opportunity to grow as a person. It's challenging, it's tough, it's hard. There's no game like football. It's the type of sport that brings out the best in you, it kind of shows you who you are. When you get done playing football, my dad tells this story all the time about a guy named Ralph - maybe he'll share it with you this week - basically you have an opportunity to make your first tackle or make your first block or do something in football, because it's such a tough thing; it's a little bit of a manhood test a little bit. When you get done you say, ‘You know what, I'm a football player. I play the game of football and that makes me special a little bit.' I think it's a huge part of our educational system in this country and it's going to be around for a long time."
(on Joe Flacco's development throughout his career) "Joe has transformed us in a lot of ways. It's been a process and Joe has been hugely successful doing it. Obviously he's got talent, everyone can see he's a big strong guy, he can throw the ball, he's accurate, he's a tough competitor, he's a winner, he's a leader, and he's ours - he's a Raven. That's what I like about him the best, he embodies the things that the Ravens are always about. People talk about a transformation; I would say it's more of an extension of who the Ravens are. That kind of mindset, Joe fits right in with that and he's just built on that."
(on whether he was confident that making the offensive coordinator change was the right move to make) "The first thing about that to understand is that, I think it was part of a progression to become as good as we could possibly be. Coach Cameron, who is a good friend of mine and all of our coaches and all of our players, continues to have a great relationship with everyone to this day. He is a big part of our success. He is a big part of what we built here. He laid a foundation and had lots of success and obviously won a lot of football games. He laid the foundation for what we're going through right now. He did a lot of hard work and had a lot of good ideas that helped to build that, because we felt we had to do something to jumpstart us for a lot of different reasons, whatever those reasons are, it was successful. I don't think that lessens Cam's contribution to that success."
(on whether there is something he is doing this week to try to make this week similar to a normal schedule) "Sure, we're going to have a similar schedule to what we always have, as much as possible. If it weren't for the media we could do it 100 percent the way we always do it. So you guys are in the way right? No, just kidding. It's okay. We're going to embrace all that. I think we embrace the things that are a little bit different about it because we're at the Super Bowl. It's got to be a little bit different. Let's put that where it belongs, make the most of it, and let's make the most of our preparation. We're going to get our full meeting times. We're going to get our full practice times. We'll be ready to go on Sunday."
LINEBACKER RAY LEWIS
(on if he thinks about the ‘lasts' of his career this week) "I think honestly that I have already put it aside. I promise you that is the last thing on my mind: Is this the last? Is this the last? The most important thing for me is to be the leader that I am for my team, and really go out and try to win this football game. That is really the only thing on my mind right now."
(on advice to teammates about Super Bowl week) "You have to be real honest with them, and lay it out. What are we really here for? The bottom line is, we are here to win a game, and there are only two teams left. For us to be where we are right now, we have to finish what we started the whole year. For me, that was one thing when we came here in 2000, there were so many guys who were so dialed in and so focused. It's the same thing I am trying to spread to this team. What is our focus? Why are we really here in New Orleans? I know it's a lot of things going on, there are a lot of things you could be doing outside, but the bottom line is that we are here for a business trip."
(on the sendoff the team got in Baltimore today) "That's Baltimore, man. That city is awesome, and today's sendoff was absolutely electric. To feel that feeling again, and to answer all of the questions the guys had, like, ‘Oh my gosh, I didn't know it was going to feel like this,' and to see their faces. I told John (Harbaugh) and a couple of other guys, ‘This feeling is great, and the sendoff was awesome, but there is nothing better than coming home as world champions. That is what we are here for, to bring a world championship back to Baltimore."
(on how the sendoff was for him) "Honestly, all week you heard guys talking like, ‘Man, I can't believe we are here. We made it, we made it.' Today, it actually confirmed for a lot of people that it's real. It's really real. Now, you have to really realize that there are two teams left. There is no next week. Whoever wins this game will feel the confetti dropping. It is one of the most ultimate feelings I have ever felt in my life. I would love to really experience that with these guys."
(on his sense of the team right now) "The thing I sense the most about our team is that we are so loose as a core, but it is so beautiful when we step on the practice field. Coach (Harbaugh) never has to dictate practice, we kind of dictate practice. He will tell us to slow down in walkthrough practice, and we will pick it back up ourselves. Anytime you have that type of chemistry, the level of wisdom, talent and leadership we have, it's a real great thing to have on our team. I think that's why our team is so focused right now."
(on his first NFL sack against 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh) "Absolutely, I remember it. How could I forget it? It is one of those things that when you are playing the game when you first come in as a rookie, you are just running around. And I was just running around making plays. When I sacked him, I remember getting up and doing this dance with my shoulders, and shaking my shoulders, or whatever. And later, I became teammates with him as well. Been a long time, but the ride, I would never complain about one moment of it."
(on how he would describe Jim Harbaugh as a teammate) "I think he was exactly how he is as a coach. He is kind of straightforward. He is a hard worker. He understands what he wants to get done. And when he comes in to get it done, he is going to do everything he has in his power to get it done. He is a very passionate person, but he always has purpose in what he is doing. That is what I remember most about Jim."
(on quarterback Joe Flacco's postseason) "Listen, I am a little biased when it comes to Joe, because you are talking about somebody who has, right now, the best playoff winning percentage ever in NFL history. So, this guy has been proven since day one. It's never been one man that has won or lost the game. It's always been a team that wins or loses a game. So, anytime you want me to talk about Joe Flacco, I am telling you that I am talking about a kid with every skill, every tool physically. This year, he took the next step in maturing as a man, and really understanding what a leader has to do. That's why our offense is clicking the way it's clicking, and that's why Joe is playing the way Joe is playing."
(on 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick) "He is one of those freakish athletes. If I had to compare him with someone, it would be Randall Cunningham, just by his style of play, and how they both slung the ball a certain way. Both of them are very long. He can run very, very well. A good athlete. You can tell he is a real good athlete. I am fond of the kid."
(on how many teammates have tried to talk him into coming back next season) "I get it every day. The guys ask me, ‘Are you really going to walk away?' I have so much to do, I really do. I have to go home and be a father to my kids, my community is definitely calling in many other ways. And I have run my course in the game. My ultimate was always to, with this core of men that I have, was to get back to a Super Bowl, and we are back. We're here, and I always wanted to experience that with Ed (Reed), with a Terrell Suggs, with a Ray Rice, and with a Joe Flacco. I wanted to experience that with those guys, and now that I am here experiencing that with them, it's awesome. But, the bottom line, like I told them, I'm here because I want them to feel what that confetti feels like. So, for me to feel that, listen, it's real with me when I say, ‘I'm done,' because coming back is a totally different thought process. I would rub a lot of people wrong, most importantly my kids. I don't want to take them through that anymore."
(on what the outpouring of support by people means to him) "I don't know anybody, honestly, who has lived a perfect life. But, I have seen people who went through things before, and realistically, most of the time what happened when you find somebody goes through adversity, you really find out what their true character is. I think for me, people really now have taken time to find out who I am. They are really learning what my character is. My character is simply just to make this world a better place, to encourage people that, no matter what you are going through, it really isn't about what you are going through; it's your mindset while you are going through it. So, when you see all of the support that I am getting right now, I am in total awe of the respect people have for someone who has been through adversity, but found his way out and just really showing what my true character is and who I am as a person."
(on what it was like to arrive in the Super Bowl city today in contrast to Super Bowl XXXV) "I can answer that kind of easy, because in 2000, I was more of a follower. This time, I am more of a leader. I had Shannon (Sharpe) leading the way the whole time, and really just following his lead, listening to Rod (Woodson), and I was up under their coattails. Now, coming back this time, it's kind of different, because it's always, ‘What are we going to do here? What's going on here?' So, now I come back as a leader this time, and so I think that is the biggest difference."
(on if the hunger to win is any different than in 2000) "It's hard not for the hunger to be different. I was young. I was 25 when I won my first Super Bowl. To be 37 and back with a chance at another one in my last year, there is no greater hunger that I have. I told my teammates this: I am going to give my teammates everything I have, not just on Sunday, but starting today. I am not going anywhere. I am sitting in my room, and I am studying, studying, studying, because I owe them something as a leader, and that is to have myself totally prepared. So, my hunger is probably off the charts right now."
(on what the role of family is for him at this point of his life) "I think the beautiful part of coming back (to the Super Bowl) now, is that my youngest baby is 10 years old, and my oldest son is 17. Now, I get all of my kids to be here, my mom will be here, my dad will be here, so I complete it now. Everything is complete now. My entire family will be here actually watching this game, outside of my grandmother, who is very ill. But, my entire family will be here. Anytime you can finish a career with your whole family right there by your side, I think that is the way you should always do it. There is no greater reward than the relationship I have with my father right now, and the things we went through when I was younger. For me and him to look at each other, I just need to hear his voice sometimes. I need to hear him tell me a joke, or whatever it is. For us to be together this week, it is going to be an awesome time."
QUARTERBACK JOE FLACCO
(on a message to the troops overseas) "We appreciate all you do for us and hopefully you have a bunch of Ravens fans over there and we can make you proud."
(on the connection between his brother and the Harbaugh brothers) "Yeah, it's pretty crazy. Obviously there is a big connection between John and Jim (Harbaugh). My brother out at Stanford walked on the football team and obviously Jim helped out in that, it's kind of cool how it's all coming together."
(on helping his brother get in to Stanford) "My brother was on the waiting list out there and I just kind of called up and said, ‘Hey, what are his chances of getting in?' That's all I did and Jim just took it from there. My brother is a pretty bright kid."
(on changing the offense up mid-season) "I don't know. I think our offense gets looked at to the point where we weren't playing well all season, which is not necessarily the truth. I think we needed a little bit of a spark, I think we were starting to level out maybe a little bit, at least that's what John (Harbaugh) thought. We had a couple of loses. I think Jim (Caldwell) has done a great job in transitioning and making it as clean as possible and as crisp as possible. I think we've gotten back a little bit to our hurry up and I think maybe that's helped us."
(on if they are the hottest team) "I don't know. I think both teams are pretty hot and I think that definitely has merit. It's not always the team that's the best all season, it's the team that endures the most and can get everybody healthy and can get going right at the right time. I think we had a little bit of that with us, I think they have a little bit of that with them also."
(on the progression of the offense) "We have mostly young guys except for Anquan (Boldin) over there on our side of the ball and going to catch passes. I think it's an ongoing process and every game is a chance for us to improve and get better at that."
(on preparing for the Super Bowl) "There's not many of us on our team that have been through this before and experienced this but we're a team that's gone through a lot. We've been in a lot of big games. We've played a lot of good teams throughout the year, so I think we'll just draw on that and go out there and try to play loose football game."
(on the sendoff in Baltimore) "Oh yeah it was something, it was a lot of fun. It was cool to see how many people in Baltimore showed up and really are in our corner. It also gave you a sense of how cool it would be if we can come down here and do the job the way we expect to. It gave you a sense of how cool it will be when we return."
(on the fan's perception of the sendoff) "I think everybody that I talked to was pretty surprised and enjoyed it."
(on the contribution of Ed Dickson) "It's big, anytime you can get a tight end that is that athletic and catches the ball well it's big for your offense because they're usually lined up on guys that are used to stopping the run and are maybe a little bit of a liability in the pass game. The fact that he is a good runner and catches the ball is definitely a huge thing for our offense."
(on getting to the Super Bowl) "It feels good and I haven't spoken to anybody, the bottom line is we're down here for a job. I think it will feel a lot better once the week is over and we can look back on hopefully what we've done and feel good about it. All those other years were kind of in the past. You forget about them and they are what they are, you went as far as you can go. To realize that we finally achieved our goal of being AFC Champions it feels really good and we can taste so we need to go out there and finish the business."
(on his impression of the 49ers) "They're impressive. We played them last year and they're a physical team. It was a really physical game last year when we played against them at our place and I expect more of the same. They can do a lot of things well and we're going to have to play good together as a unit in order to get the job done."
(on being the second quarterback from Delaware to play in the Super Bowl) "Historically, it's been a pretty good program for a (Division) I-AA school, a lot of support there and a lot of guys who see how cool of a place it is to play there. It's a pretty good recruiting tool, for a I-AA school you have 22,000 show up to every one of your games and it's a pretty good an environment. That probably has a little bit to do with that, they get good players. That area, Philadelphia, Delaware, South Jersey, and New York, all those areas I think they produce some pretty good players and that's just how it's worked out."
(on if Rich Gannon's success played a role into going to Delaware) "No, I didn't meet Rich until I got there and obviously I didn't go there right out of high school. I've gotten to know some of those guys since I've been at Delaware and since I've been in the NFL."
(on preparation last week) "We prepared like a normal week last week. We pushed it back a little bit so we can get a little bit of this stuff handled but we put in a normal week and got ready for these guys so we can come down here and just polish some things up."
(on how the families of players feel about being at the Super Bowl) "I don't know exactly what it's like for them. I can speak for my immediate family and say that it's pretty cool; they're pretty proud. Hopefully we can make it an enjoyable experience for them, even more enjoyable than it may otherwise be. I think they're just all proud and happy to be a part of it."
(on if he talks to his brother about their unique paths in college football) "No not really. I don't have too many conversations with him about that stuff. We kind of just talk and hang out. He doesn't need any of my encouragement. He would probably just laugh at me if I tried doing that."
(on being a leader) "If you talk about development as a leader, I think you naturally become more of the guy when you've spent a couple of years in the league. As a quarterback, it's my job to come in and be a leader from day one and I wanted to do it my way and I'm continuing to grow and get better at it each day."
(on his leadership style) "My way is to develop a relationship with the guys, gain their trust and go out there and play well and continue to do it over and over again. That's the bottom line."
(on the danger of the sport for children) "I think we all understand that it's probably not a safe sport but it's something that we choose to do. When you talk about little kids doing it they're not having the collision that we're having at the NFL level. They're a bunch of 50-pound or 140-pound kids. I don't know how much damage they're actually doing to each other."
(on why he chose to attend Delaware) "The thing that appealed to me was they were the only school that wanted me when I wanted to transfer. I didn't really have a choice.
(on why he left Pittsburgh) "The bottom line is they had Tyler Palko that year who was the starting quarterback. I wasn't and I just felt like I had the ability."
(on the approach to the game) "We feel confident as a group. We can't come in here and try to do too much or try to do what we've done in the past. We don't have to be perfect; we just have to play our game and be loose and we'll be alright. That's my mindset and I think that's the mindset of our guys."
RUNNING BACK RAY RICE
(on playing in the Super Bowl) "Honestly, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. My first time down at the Super Bowl was my second year in the League. I was down in Miami, and I actually had to do media day. I know this is not media day, but still I get to enjoy all the festivities and at the end of the day, we have to go play a game. I'm going to soak up every moment because this is something that some people only get to do once or twice. Some people get lucky, but not many people get to do this at all, so I'm just blessed to be where I'm at today."
(on the fans' sendoff in Baltimore) "Today our fans just showed us that they've always had our back, but it was raining and cold in Baltimore, and I think the streets were just jam packed flooded. They really just showed us today what it really is all about. They're just proud of us, and we thank them because they come out there every week - ups, downs, highs and lows - and that's what we get to look forward to, our fans. That's who we have to answer to, and we just want to make them happy."
(on running backs' value in the League) "The running back position all comes with the change, and like I said, I've only seen myself as a complete player. You look at both running backs in the game, myself and Frank Gore, and they have a great back-up for him with LaMichael James. I have a great back-up in Bernard Pierce. You just look at the game and how it's played today, and I think the value is still the same especially after what Adrian Peterson did. There's no every-down back anymore. Adrian Peterson set the standard for every running back in the League. I see myself as an all-purpose guy, but what he did was amazing."
(on Frank Gore) "He's just like a bull. He goes downhill on you really fast. I think he's more loose than people think he is. I have respect for his game because if you watch Frank Gore, he doesn't take the hits. He actually delivers them because of his low center of gravity. You go ask Ray Lewis who he has respect for in that offense, and obviously he has respect for everybody, but the main person he'll tell you right now is Frank Gore."
(on Frank Gore's injuries this season) "You know what, I've been blessed and fortunate enough to be healthy. I haven't had those kinds of situations, but to battle through what he's been through, he's a warrior - hats off to Frank. I'm always a fan of the running back. We don't have to hate each other. I like to win on Sunday, and I don't want to see him do good on our defense, but any other day, I watch him and am happy for him."
(on the running games of both teams) "What's the famed position in the game? It's the quarterback position, and we're not going to shy away from that. Our quarterback is a great quarterback. The 49ers have done a great job this year, and it's no surprise that you've got to run the ball to win the games, but you also have to balance the attack. And one thing we've been doing is balancing the attack. It's not forgotten, the running game, but when you look at the criticism that Joe Flacco has been through and you look at what a young guy like Colin Kaepernick is doing, I would make that the headline too. I'm just being honest because our guys have been through a lot. We've been to three AFC Championship games. We've been to the playoffs each year, and we just haven't got the job done, but now we're here on the big stage, and Joe deserves all that credit."
(on playing in the postseason) "The last few years have definitely helped out. I didn't know what playoff football was about my rookie year. The second year was good, but after my third season, that's when I really started to understand what playoff football was about. We started getting guys on the team that hadn't been to the playoffs and they've been in the league 10 years. I've been blessed and fortunate enough to play in the playoffs five years - three AFC Championships and one Super Bowl. I just can't even tell you how the experience has been because you grind all season, and everybody was talking about us when we lost a couple games, but we really knew we only needed one. You grind to get into the playoffs. And everybody knows when you get in those games, it's totally different. You can wipe your schedule out, your yards, wipe everything out to start 0-0 in the playoff schedules. We knew it was two seasons."
(on what will be key in this Super Bowl) "It all comes down to execution, and that's what it's going to be all about on Sunday, whatever the team executes, whoever goes out there and plays a more physical game and executes at a high level."
(on if teams mirror each other) "Yes, you look at the structure of the defense, similar to ours. Take the pistol out of their offense, and you look at what they have and who we have on offense. They've got two running backs; we've got two running backs. They've got great receivers, speedy guys, tight ends - look at who we have. They have a big, physical offensive line - look at what we have. It's just one of those games where I really, genuinely feel that there's a lot of great teams in the NFL, but the two teams that deserve to play in the Super Bowl are in it."
(on the sendoff in Baltimore) "It was great. I had fun. I thank our fans because it's cold out there. They don't have this kind of weather. The only time they feel this kind of weather is if they turn the heater on in their house."
(on playing in the Super Bowl) "It's been a great journey for me. I just have a lot in my life. I started playing football when I was seven years old. I actually got to watch Ray Lewis win the Super Bowl, and now I get to play with him. I think that's pretty cool when you put it all in perspective."
(on former Rutgers and current Buccaneers coach, Greg Schiano) "Coach Schiano did a great job. He's always had my respect as a man, as a father and as a husband. I've seen the way not only that he took care of us as his kids, but you see the way he takes care of his family. He's always about team first, and it reminds me of our coach. One thing about the Baltimore Ravens is that we have the guys that are stars or whatever you want to call them, but no one is bigger than their team, and that's what makes the Baltimore Ravens special. We've got a general, Ray Lewis, that's going to be a Hall of Famer, and Ray will be the first to tell you that he wants to be there to shine amongst others, and that's how our team is. Coach Schiano implemented that same kind of format in us."
(on hiring new run game coordinator, Juan Castillo) "Coach Castillo has a great respect amongst this league, and I got phone calls when he came in, and it was like, ‘You've got a great coach coming on staff, so your run game is going to get even better.' I'm like, ‘Well, shoot, I'm all in!' Every year you look to tweak it a little bit, fine tune it, and Coach Castillo is going to do a great job with us."
(on if Castillo's hiring was a surprise) "I never really get into the hiring and firing, but one thing I know is that Coach [John] Harbaugh makes a decision for the best of the program and for the situation. We're not going to bring anybody that's going to cause a distraction. He's going to fit right in. We brought him in on the backend, so he can get right to work for next season. He's probably breaking down film and going over the games. When the offseason comes, he's going to be ahead of the ball. When we come in next offseason, we've got something to work on. Even though you go to the Super Bowl, believe it or not, you're behind because everyone else stopped working. You've got the guys scouting and doing all that stuff, and we're behind in terms of football right now because we're still playing. He's probably going to get a jump on everything to make it better for us during the offseason."
(on firing offensive coordinator, Cam Cameron) "Cameron was a great coordinator, and he's done a lot for us. Coach Harbaugh made the decision, and when he made that decision it was based on what he felt was best for us. Jim Caldwell has kept it simple for us. One thing that he's doing is utilizing the weapons we have. We have the talent, but we had a hard time sometimes trying to get everybody the ball, but right now everyone's touching it and we're happy. We've always said that execution was one of the defenders. We've been executing better, and that's what it's all about."
(on Joe Flacco) "He's our leader. I've always said that we go if Joe goes, and this year he just took off. He went out there and everyone was talking about the run game, but everybody follows somebody. I follow Joe Flacco. I can't go out there and throw the ball. I can only go out there and do my job. He's done it for us, so we go out there and do it for him. One thing I love about Joe's approach is that he never gets too high or too low, he stays on that even keel. I think in football you have to do that because if you get too high or too low, you find yourself riding the wave, and Joe Flacco never rode the wave this year. When we had bad games, we took it on the chain and got ready for next week."
CENTER MATT BIRK
(on if he thought it would take 15 years) "I didn't think I was going to be here 15 years later in 1998."
(on he and Randy Moss starting together that year at opposite ends of the publicity spectrum) "I was fortunate enough to play with Randy for seven years and the way he took the league by storm was unbelievable. To be a part of that and to be his teammate for seven years, we had a lot of fun in the locker room and obviously won a lot of games in large part to him. I haven't kept in touch with him or anything like that, but obviously I'm happy for him and that he's still playing. I think Randy's been through a lot, gone through a lot of different things, but I understand having been his teammate for seven years what a competitor he is and how hard he works."
(on the time and effort he's put in and what it means to get here with the guys in his locker room) "Just being here with these guys, this is a special group. That was obvious when I got to Baltimore. Being here for four years, it's just a tight-knit group and we really are a team and that come from Coach Harbaugh. If you're not about the team you're not going to play for the Ravens. Obviously we have great players, Hall of Fame players, guys that their impact isn't measured only on the field, but off the field as well. It's just a blessing to able to play with those guys."
(on any misconceptions about Randy Moss in a general sense) "I would just say he was a great teammate, extremely hardworking. I mean the things he did on the football field were fantastic. Those are the guys you want to play with, those types of competitors.
(on if this is a dream matchup) "These are two very physical teams, alike in a lot of ways and the physical aspect of football. That element is never going to change and big games you have to be physical. The two teams here are physical. It's our 20th game of the season, we're not going to change what we do and they're not going to change what they do. It's going to be pretty straight forward. I think the way the game evolves and changes and so much in passing and spreading out the field and doing things. I like the fact that just as a fan it comes down to these two teams and this style of play to decide the world champion."
(on Joe Flacco's development) "He's just continued to get better. It's been five years evolving and every year he's gotten better and other guys have developed along with him that are young players. Ray Rice, Torrey Smith, Dennis Bennett, guys like that. Joe's gotten better, but I think a lot of guys around him have gotten better as well. It's kind of a two way street."
(on Joe Flacco being a leader in the locker room) "I think just Joe being Joe. He is who he is and he's very comfortable with that. The person he is and his personality. He doesn't try to be somebody he's not. The quarterback position is a leadership position and hopefully you have to play well and Joe's done it time and time again. He's proven that he's an excellent quarterback on big stages and he plays well and you do the best you can to respect your teammates.
(on the special feeling you need to have in the playoffs to win and coming back sense the middle of the season) "I think we have great leadership on this team. I think Coach Harbaugh is a great coach and a great leader. I think the guys in this room, their performance and their careers speak for themselves, but they're not guys that a just in it for themselves. They're team guys, they lead and the rest follow. Everybody's going to have bumps in the road. You're going to have downs in the middle of the season and we understand that and you try your best to avoid them, but it's going to happen. I think when we had ours nobody panicked because players still believed in players and in coaches and coaches believed in players and we still believed in the way we were doing things. We know that you get rough patches during the season it's a long season, but we just have to do things the way we've been doing. Our philosophy is just come to work ready to work and try to work as hard as you can and to get as good as you can and that's basically all we do."
(on the length of time he's been in the league and what it feels like being here) "I feel very fortunate to be playing this game and to be doing it with this group of guys. It's a special group of guys all the way around and nobody's entitled and nobody deserves to play in the Super Bowl, but everything really came together for us."
(on President Obama saying that if he had a son he would have to think long and hard before letting him play football because of the physical toll it takes) "I have three sons and I think anyone who is a parent can relate to that. Certainly it is a dangerous game and we're finding out more and more, every day, the long term effects that this game can have. I think it's a joint effort with the commissioner, with coaches, with players, with everybody, everybody that wants to watch and make this game as safe as it can be. I think we're making strides in that. Football's a great game. Obviously it's a great game for NFL players, it's how we make a living, but most kids who play football aren't going to make it to the NFL. It's such a great game because it teaches you about life and lessons and there's so much to be gained by participating in football. It's served us all well and just to continue to have this conversation and continue to talk about it and just do whatever we can to make it safer whether it be through rule change or research."
(on how important Coach Jim Caldwell has been to this team) "Obviously he's done a great job. It's probably less than an ideal situation. I think his track record speaks for itself and what he's accomplished in this league. I think he helped Joe (Flacco) progress, get a different coach, different voice and a different viewpoint and this offense as a whole, he's obviously brought a lot of ideas and when he became coordinator he was able to put his stamp on it, his personality a little bit more. Fortunately he's been successful."
(on the dynamic of the changes in the offensive line) "We always talk about chemistry on the offensive line, five guys because you work together so much and ideally you'd love to have five guys in there at the same position all season. That's not the way it worked out for us, but you get back to the team philosophy that we have and everybody buying in and what was best for the team. Guys like Michael (Oher) and Michael's been back and forth many times throughout his career and he just does it. He doesn't complain. He just does it because he knows that's what's best for the team. Brian (Williams) did a great job of just staying ready all season to jump in and Kelechi (Osemele) as a rookie you lean so much and you're learning curve is so steep and he's playing left tackle for 16 games and then all of a sudden get switched to guard. Those guys, they just want to win. They're about the team and whatever it took when we had to make those changes because of injury and everybody just went all in and did the best they could."
(on Bryant McKinnie and Aldon Smith matching up) "It'll be a great matchup. Bryant's been a great player in this league for a long time. Left tackle position, you've got to be able to block guys one-on-one in the pass and obviously with Smith, the year that he's had and to do what he's be able to do is phenomenal. That'll be two great players going at it."
(on Alex Smith going out with a concussion and if that hurts the advancement of the safety issue) "I don't know that situation particularly, but I think the culture has changed for the better in the last few years as far as concussions are concerned. I think the attitude is that it's not smart to play with a concussion. You're not doing your team any favors by trying to play through a concussion because you can."
(on if he had the information now based on the research they're showing, would that have affected his decision as far as playing) "I don't know. It's hard to say. I have three sons and once they get to a certain age and want to play football, I'll let them."
LINEBACKER TERRELL SUGGS
(on reaching the Super Bowl) "It feels pretty good. I get a lot of home-cooked meals at home, but for some reason the food tastes a little bit better this time around, particularly down here in New Orleans."
(on the home cooked meals) "It was very nice. It was very nice. You know, she didn't have to. We're all just happy to be able to come down to New Orleans and play in the last football game of the year."
(on keeping a low profile in the media this week) "Pretty much. I'm going to talk to you guys with the obligated time that I'm supposed to talk to you guys, and then I'm going to keep my focus on it. You see my man back here has my clock. Y'all are allotted a certain amount of time and I'm going to stick to that."
(on any impromptu trips around the city this week) "Maybe I have to wait and see. Nothing I do is scripted so you have to wait and see what I come off the noggin with, when I come off the top.
(on Joe Staley) "Solid, very good offensive tackle. I think he's really underrated, but he was a Pro Bowler this year so I think he finally gets his just due. He came down to Baltimore last year and I had a little bit of a hard time with him."
(on what makes Joe Staley a great player) "You want my personal opinion? I think he has fun playing football. When we were out there, we had some conversations, both football and non-football related in the middle of a game and that's the kind of player I am. You know me, just like to have fun and enjoy what you're doing and that's the kind of player he is."
(on last year's team) "You know, last year we felt we had a really good chance at making it to the Super Bowl, and I thought, ‘This is what a Super Bowl team looks like,' but then I was reminded in New England that you don't know what a Super Bowl team looks like because you've never been there. However, through everything we've been through this year, all my injuries, missing the first six games and the guys we lost throughout the year and losing three games down the stretch, it's just, a lot of things happened. I was just like, ‘Well, if this is a Super Bowl team, this is one hell of a team.' You know what I mean? We're here and it almost doesn't count. You don't just want to make it to this point."
(on his name for the defense this season) "I don't know, I don't have a word. We've had defenses that you guys have given names to, like the ‘Organized Chaos Deacons,' but you know, that defense doesn't have a ring. This defense has the opportunity to get one. I'm going to stick with my previous quotes; ask me on February 4th."
(on the first thing he thought about when he heard about Ray Lewis' retirement) "They told us in the team meeting that we would have him back for the playoffs and it was like, ‘Okay, here we go.' He always talks to the team before the game, the middle of the season and going into the playoffs. I thought it was another day at the office, ‘Let's get ready for the playoffs,' but he said some key words. It struck me. He said maybe it was time to start doing something else and it just kind of puzzled me and then it hit me. It really focused our team. It really focused our team, not only to get it done for him, but just how precious this time and these moments are. You don't get these opportunities every day."
(on President Obama's comments about football safety) "I respect it for the simple fact that this is a very physical and dangerous sport that we play, especially considering that with the concussions and the current findings of Junior Seau, a parent would be reluctant (to let) his or her child play football. I think if you play the game right and you play it appropriately, that injuries are a part of the game."
(on if he would let his son play football) "Absolutely, but it would have to be his choice. Football isn't for everybody. If my son Duke decided and came to me and said, ‘I want to play football,' then I would let him play, most definitely."
(on the dangers of football) "I don't play with fear. I don't think about the game like that for the simple fact that I've been playing this game since I was 7 years old. The way we play, it comes with the territory. Every man knows what we're signing up for. If my son decided he wanted to play football I would respect his decision and just caution him to play the game correctly and to do things according to technique."
(on people referring to the Ravens as a team of destiny) "I don't know, I think that's something that you guys came up with. You can't say a team is a team of destiny until they get it done. Like I said, we won't accept that moniker until February 4th, if we have taken care of business."
(on Colin Kaepernick) "I like him. I like the way he plays, you know what I mean? You have to like those kinds of quarterbacks that's exciting. I think he's good for the game, him and Robert Griffin III. I like his game, but come February 3rd, he's my opponent. Hopefully, he's not doing too much, he's not giving us too much of Colin Kaepernick."
(on his perception of Ray Lewis when entering the NFL) "Oh yeah, oh yeah. I thought Ray Lewis was 6-foot-6, 275 pounds all muscle and first things first; I did a commercial with him before I even got drafted to the Baltimore Ravens. I was like, ‘Oh, you're not that tall.' It's just something about the guy. If you're a defensive player or a football player, you're going to like Ray Lewis whether you're offense, defense; you need him on the field. We did a commercial, a draft day commercial and we had so much fun. He was like, ‘Alright now youngin', you might fall to us, me.' Me, being the naïve 20-year-old that I am, I'm like, ‘What pick are y'all?' He's like, ‘We pick 10th,' and I was like, "No way I'm going that far down the line.' Low and behold, the Arizona Cardinals traded out of the pick. Thank y'all for that, I appreciate that. With all my heart, thank you. The Arizona Cardinals traded out of the pick and when the ninth pick came, I was just like, ‘Wait a minute.' Then, my phone started ringing. Low and behold, it was Art Modell and then Ozzie Newsome. Then, I got a call, probably about 20 minutes after they mentioned my name, from the great (No.) 5-2. He said, ‘I told you rook. I can't wait to see you in camp.' The rest is history."
(on how Ray Lewis has affected his career) "It affected me a lot, for the simple fact that I've been his teammate for 10 years. I've never played a season without him. I sat next to him for 10 years. Ten years and then big brother telling me it's time for him to move on and be the father that he always wanted to be to his children. It's special for them, but it's kind of a sad day for me. Right now, I'm going to enjoy it while I have him. I have my general still, and we still have one more football game to play. It just so happens to be on the biggest stage in the world."
(on Rex Ryan's future with the Jets) "I can't really comment on Rex. All I can really say is I love the man to death. He's one hell of a football coach. He's a hell of a football coach. Even if it is his last year as the New York head coach, it won't be his last year as a coach and it damn sure won't be his last year as a head coach. He's a players' coach. He's a real coach. I wish him all the best. I hope things turn around for him except when he plays the Baltimore Ravens."
(on Jonathan Ogden's Pro Football Hall of Fame bid) "He's probably one of the hands-down, top-three left tackles to ever play this game. If he's not a shoe-in, I'd be surprised. I want to extend my congratulations to Jonathan Ogden right now. It may be a little premature, but I hope he gets in."
(on Vic Fangio) "He's a wise guy. He's a good fella. You know what I mean? We have a lot of history with Vic. He was the linebackers coach here, and we always thought he was going to be our next coordinator when Greg Madison left, but he went to San Fran. We love Vic. We have a lot of love for him. Hopefully come February 3rd, we won't have too much love for him."
SAFETY ED REED
(on how great it is to be back home in New Orleans for a Super Bowl) "I can't explain it. This is awesome. To come home, to be in Louisiana, in front of the home team, the home crowd, playing for the Super Bowl...I can't really explain it. I'm really speechless. For everything that I've been through to get to this point, everything we've been through as a team to get to this point, it's just awesome. I'm just trying to enjoy it and not hold everything in, just enjoy the moment and soak this up. I remember being here in '97 for Media Day when the Patriots and Green Bay played, I had won a Punt, Pass & Kick, and I remember this right here, because I was at Media Day."
(on if it's tough to imagine what it would be like to win a Super Bowl in his home town) "Yes. You'll have to ask that question after the game, because I'm sure the guys on San Fran are saying the same thing. They're a great team and we're a great team and at the end of the day, there's only going to be one of us who is going to be crowned champion. That's what we're here for. That's what we're playing for, and that question can come a couple days from now."
(on if he's decided to come back and play for another season next year) "That question there was asked a couple days back, about this being my last ride. I'm not focusing on that right now, so that question is pointless to answer, really. I'm not even thinking about that."
(on if he is content with this being a week to honor Ray Lewis and his career sendoff) "Hey, this is about Baltimore. I knew. Ray told me months ago that this was probably it. I had that focus of coming in, that hopefully we could get here, and here we are. It just so happened that Ray made that announcement so the team knows also, and here we are. Of course, we want to send him off the right way. I'm not about to say this is my last game, and everybody join in with that. Now, if that's what it takes to get the guys pumped, though, I would say it. No, this is not about me. It's about us, the Ravens playing against San Francisco. Yeah, it's Ray's last ride, but I wouldn't be so certain about that. Ain't no telling. He might make a comeback. He may play 10 games next year.
(on if he plans to visit his family while he's in town) "Yeah, I'm going to go visit my family. I'm going to visit my mom tomorrow, I'll be at the house tomorrow. Hopefully I can get some good cooking around here."
(on what he remembers about Punt, Pass & Kick) "It was awesome. I remember everything, really. Going against Craig Nall and guys like that, guys who played in the league. I was going against quarterbacks. I was a safety/quarterback athlete. I wound up winning the event, and the winner of the event came to Media Day to see guys just interact with you guys. I was just standing around, me and my dad. I remember seeing the Superdome field, I remember seeing you guys crowd around guys like this. It was just an awesome day. I just started seeing those same visions as we started getting closer and closer to the Super Bowl. Before we played the Patriots, I started seeing those images, but I wasn't saying anything about it. It was just like, ‘Lord, for real? Is this real?' I knew we had to play this game, and it's just awesome. After that, I wound up going to Disney World and competed in their Punt, Pass & Kick."
(on if he can kick) "Yeah, I was a kicker. I taught Mike Scifres from San Diego. I taught him how to kick, ask him. That was back in high school and we didn't have many kids to play the game."
(on if he won the local Punt, Pass & Kick) "Yeah, I won the local one to go to the big one in Florida and Disney World. That was an awesome trip there in itself, me and my dad. I had those visions, too, going to Disney World."
(on if he was an option quarterback in high school) "I wouldn't call it option, we ran the Wing-T. There was some option in there, and you can see that from when I used to pitch the ball."
(on if he thought about what he would be missing had he already been retired) "No, I haven't thought about that because I knew what I was saying when I tell you guys that I'm thinking about retiring. That's me sensing my body physically to see where I'm at, how I feel. I've been playing with a nerve impingement for the last six or seven years. I know that's affecting me. I tore my labrum early in the year, and that still affects me, working out and everything. It's just doing a great job with my doctor, who's really...he comes up to see me every week. So having all that going on physically, plus you have to pay for this service. I pay out of my pocket for my physical well-being. It makes you think. It makes you think about your livelihood after football, how much you're going to have to spend to take care of your body, the toll that it puts on us. That's the biggest concern that the NFL has right now. Even President Obama, I see, has made a comment on it, and the truth is that football does take its toll. It does take its toll on our life and our body. So that's why physically, I was assessing myself through the years, and even now, to see how I feel. I've been doing some great things with my doctor, to kind of combat against the (aging) that we have. We age faster than everybody for what we do. My whole protocol is surrounded around making sure that you're taking care of the body. It's one thing for what God has planned for you, as far as you to see him, seeing your maker. But it's one thing as far as what you're doing physically to take care of yourself, as far as your health, as far as your eating, what you're putting into your body, how you're working out. I used to work out with Sergeant Slaughter over there, Ray Lewis. And I used to be like, ‘Lew' - and (personal trainer) Monte Sanders can attest to this - like, we're working too hard. We're doing too much, and at some point, you're doing too much, I think. The biggest thing is having someone and knowing your body as best you could to get that full potential out of yourself, by maximizing that. That's why I've performed the way I've performed this year and that's why I've played all the games, and why you don't see me on the ground wincing as much - because I've done enough to help myself to bounce back for this job, because I'm one of the guys who was born for this, who really puts everything into football and puts a lot of things on the back burner."
(on if he agrees with Commissioner Roger Goodell's attempts to police the game and protect the players) "Honestly, there's a catch-22 with that. You have to police the situation, but at the same time, you have to make sure you're doing the right thing for the players also. Not everybody is making the money that you're taking, and not every offense is deserving of $100,000, $50,000 fines. And these are players on that committee, Merton Hanks and guys like that, who have been in the game, but also have a boss to answer to. A lot needs to be done with it. I don't think every fine is right. You have to go back and really look at how guys play the game before you judge them, is what I'm trying to say."
(on if defensive players should also be protected) "Yes, defensive players should be protected, too. And offensive guys, quarterbacks in general, shouldn't be treated better than everybody else on the football field."
(on if the extra week off helped to gather all the tickets for his family) "I'm still getting tickets. I would actually auction off tickets to random folk if I could. But you need that week. You need that week to get everything situated. I know the organization needs it to make sure you get tickets straight, the family, as far as hotels, travel. That week is definitely good to get everything prepared, and obviously, I'm still kind of chopping things down, making sure you've got your lists right, especially when you come home. I asked Jonathan Vilma how he dealt with it in Miami, because he experienced it at home, and I'm doing the same thing. Everybody wants to come. You want everyone to come to the game. Honestly, I could fill the Superdome up. I could fill every seat. I would love to, but you can't, so I want my family to know that right now. Things are starting to get a little pricey, but I'm just grateful to go through it. I could do this every year."
(on how important it is to him to participate in the first Super Bowl in New Orleans since 2002) "It's huge. Being at home, this is special. For my first Super Bowl, to be playing in my first Super Bowl in New Orleans, I just want to do this for the city. I'm sure there's some guy from Louisiana on San Francisco's team that wants to do the same thing. It's just special."
(on the differences between preparing this week and last week) "Well, you've got Colin Kaepernick and you've got Tom Brady. You've got a whole bunch of weapons in San Francisco, a great line, Randy Moss, (Michael) Crabtree, Vernon (Davis), my boy Frank Gore, the best running back I've ever played against. They have so many weapons. Preparing for this team versus preparing for New England, my preparation won't be any different. It's two different types of teams."