The Super Bowl Champions Final Team Huddle
Not sure how many interviews John Harbaugh did after joining Steve Bisciotti, Ozzie Newsome, Dick Cass, Joe Flacco, Ray Lewis and Ed Reed in receiving the Super Bowl trophy from Roger Goodell on the Superdome field, but there were a lot. Maybe 10 to 15 ... ESPN, CBS, Comcast, Brazil-TV, CNN, NFL Network, FOX and on and on.
When we finally headed to the locker room, Coach Harbaugh turned and asked: "Where are the players? Is everyone in the locker room?"
He was told that some players had already dressed and were on buses back to the team hotel.
"We have to meet one more time. We have to have our huddle and pray. That's who we are," Harbaugh said.
So, on the plane ride back to Baltimore the next day, Harbs got on the P.A. and explained about the parade and rally that would happen on Tuesday, saying: "Before we start the parade, let's meet in the locker room for our last prayer and meeting."
The meeting was supposed to start at 9:45, but because of the traffic jams around M&T Bank Stadium, our players and coaches struggled to be on time. When all the coaches and players had arrived in the locker room almost an hour later, the room included families. Steve and Renee' Bisciotti were there. Ingrid and Alison Harbaugh stood by John. Maybe 30 or more players had their spouses and children or girlfriends with them.
Everyone In The Huddle
Many coaches would have asked for a little privacy with their players and coaches for "one last team huddle." Not Harbs. He invited everyone to form a big circle in the middle of the room. Players, kids, wives, girlfriends. Everyone.
"You know when I got emotional at the Super Bowl?" Coach Harbaugh began, "When I heard that loud 'Oh!' during the national anthem. All of our fans – they were so proud to be there. That is so much about what this is all about. And, we're about to see that today with the parade and rally.
"We are so proud to stand together. Let me tell you what the people said in New Orleans. The real people – the ones working with us at the hotel, the police who escorted us. They said they had never witnessed a group of men like you. They said you treated them with class and dignity and with humor. They said you showed interest in them. They've worked with many other NFL teams and college teams playing in Sugar Bowls.
"But, they said you were the best they ever worked with – the Baltimore Ravens were the best people," Harbs said.
Suggs Wants More
"Good for you," the head coach continued. "But, there's more. Terrell, what did you just say to me?"
"This is the beginning, Coach. We want more," Suggs shouted from the back of the large huddle.
"We all want more," Harbs answered. "What will it take? It will take more. More hard work in the offseason. More sacrifice. More. We will work like no other team ever before.
"But, this team today will walk together forever. And, we won't defend a title, right Dean?"
The defensive coordinator Dean Pees stepped up: "We are the 2012 champions. We will always be. No one can take that away from us. Next season's Ravens will write their own story. The story of this team has been written, and we are the champions."
With that said, Harbs called for senior offensive assistant coach Craig Ver Steeg to lead the group in the Lord's Prayer, the "Our Father."
Ray Lewis' Last Address As A Ravens Player
After the prayer, John called to Ray Lewis. "Ray, would you like to say something?" (A lot of players chuckled at that – Ray is almost always willing, and he's, as you know, very good at it.)
Ray, smiling at his teammates, slid to the middle of the circle and began: "Everything in life happens for a reason. Every moment that happened with our team happened for a reason. Suggs going down even before the season started. Webbie (Lardarius Webb) out. I went down. Jameel (McClain) gone. It all had to happen. Torrey (Smith) losing a brother. There's more, you know it.
"But, we promised we'd finish the race," Lewis proclaimed. "And, now we are the champions forever, like Dean said. I'm proud to make this ride with you, players and coaches. We trusted each other. Our backs were against the wall. Our integrity was questioned. Deal with us. Great teams like Denver, New England and the 49ers gave us everything they had. We stood taller.
"That's what the Baltimore Ravens stood for this year: 'No weapon against us shall prosper.' That's what we said. We sacrificed for each other. We bought in. We won.
"For the rest of our lives, we'll be champions. We became a family. Thanks. Thank you for this ride. Thank you to the organization. Thank you to Coach Harbaugh – you did everything for us. Thank you. Thank you, Ravens."
There was silence for a few seconds. Ray looked to the floor. And, then raising his head and flashing that smile we all recognize, he finished:
"So, when you all are in training camp, and I'm on that fishing boat in the ocean, let me know if you want me to send you a speech, because I ain't coming to give it." We all laughed as Ray turned to hug Harbs.
"Let's get everybody in here. Everybody," Coach Harbaugh encouraged.
The big circle was formed around the Super Bowl trophy sitting on the floor in the middle of the room. In that huddle were the owner and team president, General Manager Ozzie Newsome, players, coaches, other team personnel, wives and kids. "Everybody" as Harbs had invited.
John turned to Ray. "One more time." With that, Ray raised his right arm, and we all reached towards it, touching the person next to us. Ray shouted: "Family on three: One, two, three ... FAMILY!"
The 2012 championship season had ended.
Talk with you next week, and we'll share some more memories of Super Bowl week,