Can The Focus Stay On Football Despite The Circus?
Let's see, there was Shannon Sharpe in the cafeteria. Walked down the hall, "Hey Sal, everything OK?" as ESPN's Sal Paolantonio said hello.
There was Boomer Esiason.
Wait, didn't I just see Sharpe from the same CBS show? Oh, Shannon is interviewing Ray Lewis, after Sal is finished with Ray, and Boomer is here for a "sit-down" with Joe Flacco.
"Ron, good to see you," as "Jaws" Jaworski mentioned that he was looking forward to sitting down with Flacco.
(Ron, do you know Sal Pal is right around the corner? Hey, isn't that Lindsay Czarniak from ESPN. Oh, she's interviewing Ray Rice and Torrey Smith. Whew!)
Popped by Art Modell's old office, and it looked like a film crew big enough to make "Lincoln" was in there. They had equipment in the hall, in a bathroom and an adjacent office. Called to Chad Steele, our director of media relations: "Who's in Art's office?" I asked. "That's one of two NFL Network crews here today," Steele said.
Went to our media room, and it was overflowing. Maybe 40 to 50 reporters from the Baltimore area, three from USA Today … let's see, who else: New York Times, Washington Post, New York Post, Yahoo.com, CBSSports.com, Sports Illustrated, Time Magazine, ESPN.com – ESPN should rent a five-bedroom home in Owings Mills – NFL.com, FOXSports.com and on and on.
At least 15 have asked for one-on-one interviews with Ozzie Newsome. "Hey, can I just get two questions with Ray Lewis off to the side?" Sure, and if we gave every reporter wanting isolated time with Ray, he would not have much time to eat, study 49ers video or call his kids.
You don't want to know how many times we've heard: "I just need five minutes with Coach Harbaugh." A Philadelphia newspaper reporter nonchalantly asked: "Since Joe is from up in our area, I need a 'sit-down' with him."
Our voicemails are filled. We're answering texts at midnight and 6 a.m. We're scanning e-mails to make sure we're not missing something from a Chris Berman or Jim Nantz.
Did I mention there were six different CBS-TV crews here on the same day?
Guys, this was just yesterday and Wednesday.
Rest Assured, Focus Is On Football
The league sent a note that there are over 5,200 journalists registered to cover the Super Bowl. We'll see, probably, about 3,000 of those, next Tuesday at "Media Day" at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
But, all of our jobs at the Ravens, especially John Harbaugh and the coaches, have to be on the No. 1 task: Find a way to beat the 49ers.
You can handle all of this attention two ways: 1) Get irritated with it, make it difficult for the reporters, who, in turn, would try to make it difficult for your team; or 2) Manage all of it with a shrug, recognize that it comes with advancing to the Super Bowl and have a little fun with it.
We're shrugging and having a little fun.
For example, one of those CBS-TV crews was here to shoot Harbs and various players with the Super Bowl trophy. Mentioned this to Harbs. "I'm not touching the trophy before the game. I want to touch it after. It's like in hockey, they don't touch the Stanley Cup until they win it." Found all of the players felt the same way. The crew was told, so it replaced the trophy with a Ravens helmet and got the one-liners it needed to promote the game and for CBS's five-hour pre-game show.
Meanwhile, players and coaches had what was a regular-season "Wednesday" schedule yesterday. They received the 49ers' game plan first thing in the morning, had the normal walk-through, practice and post-practice meetings. When they had the mid-day break when interviews are usually handled, they did those. Only instead of 35 reporters, there were over 100. Some of the big-name players had separate "sit-downs" with networks and other reporters … but all was done in the regular time frame.
Clearly, it's different, but Harbs and the guys know what's most important and that work is getting done.
Memories, Stories And Fun Stuff
Here are some quick hits from the last week:
- Chad Steele and Coach Harbaugh both told me this story. They both knew Joe Flacco and Dennis Pitta were relaxed just before kickoff in New England last Sunday. While waiting in a tunnel before being introduced, Joe and Dennis were talking: "There are players chanting together, some are screaming, a few have tears, and Dennis and Joe are talking about the shirts under their pads," Steele said. Harbaugh took over: "I heard Joe ask Dennis if he thought the material on their jerseys was scratchy. They both liked the tight fit and lack of restrictions. It was Seinfeldesque."
- Harbs was miked for NFL Films, and I know many of you saw some of this material on various shows this week. But, before it's aired, I have to watch the raw footage that Films wants to use and approve or reject. One part that won't make any show made me laugh. John, with his back to the field, emphatically told his players and coaches, "Leave the officials alone. We will win despite them. It's not helping to yell at them. Focus on your jobs. Hey, just forget about the officials. We're going to win. Everyone have it? Shut up about the officials." Harbs then turned to the field, and you could tell that he was watching the next play. He then started extending both arms to the field in a pleading manner: "Bill, Bill (Leavy, the game's referee), that's so wrong," the head coach yelled. "Hey, get Bill. Bill, come over here. Come over here, now. Hey, someone make him come talk to me. Bill, you have it wrong. What's going on?" So much for leaving the officials alone.
- A turning point in the AFC Championship was how the offense became more aggressive with throws downfield. It struck me how calm Harbs was when giving the go-ahead to offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell late in the second quarter. Talking into his headset calmly during a TV timeout, John said: "Guys, Jim, they're doing a good job of stuffing our runs. Let's think about opening it up. Let's attack. We're going to need more points to win this game. We'll be fine."
- Loved when Terrell Suggs yelled at Joe Flacco in the locker room after the game: "Joe Fleezy, I'm following you wherever you go. You need Secret Service? I'm your man." Joe just smiled.
- How about Jim Nantz with the trophy presentation with O.J. Brigance, and O.J., through his computer, said: "Congratulations to the Baltimore Ravens. Your resiliency has outlasted your adversity. You are the AFC Champions. You are my mighty men. With God, all things are possible." Nantz said afterwards: "Might have been the most powerful trophy presentation I have ever witnessed."
- Tony Siragusa, our star defensive tackle on the Super Bowl XXXV championship team, called after the game. "Goose, how good was that?" I said. In typical Tony fashion: "Man, I crapped my pants in the second half. Shutting them out, Flacco to Boldin. My kids wondered what's wrong with Dad."
And a Goose story to finish ... During the 2000 Super Bowl season, when Steve Bisciotti was our minority owner, he and Tony started a strong friendship that continues today. "It's an Italian thing," Siragusa said. Steve told some of us this story last Sunday about an hour before kickoff. "I was naïve about owning an NFL team then. I got to my car for a road game, and they had the car parked under the stadium near the team buses. There's Goose, inside my car, stealing beers. He said that they didn't serve beers on the team plane. I said, 'Goose those are my beers for me and my friends.' He said he'd put them back, and I told him that we had more on our plane and not to worry about it. Tony came back about five minutes later and asked: 'You have room for one more on the plane?' I said I didn't know if that would be OK with Coach Billick. Goose said he had already asked Brian if he could travel back to Baltimore with me. So, we took him with us. Later I got a call from Brian suggesting that it was not in the best interest of the team to have a player not travel with the team. Goose had never asked! Lesson learned," Bisciotti laughed.
Enjoy the weekend and next week. It's going to be a lot of fun.
Talk with you next week,