When the Baltimore Ravens last went to the Super Bowl, Art Modell was the owner, Brian Billick served as coach and Trent Dilfer was the starting quarterback.
Now, 12 years later, they’re back with owner Steve Bisciotti, coach John Harbaugh, QB Joe Flacco and one significant link to both teams: Ray Lewis. Drawing inspiration from Lewis, their longtime middle linebacker, the Ravens bullied their way past New England 28-13 Sunday night to win the AFC championship and set up a matchup with the 49ers. The victory ended a lengthy dry spell for a franchise with one Super Bowl appearance in its 17 years of existence.
Lewis was voted Super Bowl MVP after the Ravens beat the New York Giants 34-7 on Jan. 28, 2001. He announced this month that he would step into retirement after Baltimore completes its current playoff run, and his teammates were determined to make sure that didn’t happen before the Super Bowl.
“Ray is a guy who’s been here since the beginning of this franchise,” strong safety Bernard Pollard said Monday. “He’s a guy who is The Raven.”
Lewis knows what it takes to win. He knows about playing in the Super Bowl. Most of all, he knows how to get his teammates ready to play with unyielding intensity.
“Everyone knows what kind of player he is and what he’s meant to this team and this organization,” center Matt Birk said. Lewis got to the Super Bowl in his fifth season, then had to wait until his 17th to get back.