Torrey Smith heard coming into this season that the Ravens would "get everybody's best shot" as the defending Super Bowl champions. He heard the talk about a Super Bowl hangover and the challenges of repeating.
Even NFL Network analyst Warren Sapp – a Super Bowl champ himself* *– warned Smith about the challenges of repeating.
But Smith didn't really buy into the hype.
"It's not that big of a deal, man," Smith told Sapp at the time.
After six weeks of the 2013 season, Smith now sees Sapp's point.
"I know what he's talking about now," Smith said. "Other teams mention that they're playing the defending Super Bowl champions, and their coaches are preaching that to them. There's a difference."
The biggest change Smith has noticed from opponents is that they have used the Ravens' championship as a source of motivation throughout the week. Coaches and players routinely talk about the challenge of playing defending champs, and Smith even hears opponents occasionally bring up the Super Bowl on the field.
"Every once in a while you hear people say, 'This ain't last year,'" Smith said. "People are going to give you their best shot anyway, but it is a little different when you hear people talk about playing the defending Super Bowl champions. Clearly they use it as a motivating factor to prepare well, practice well. There is definitely a difference. You can tell."
The challenge of repeating as Super Bowl champions is well documented. No team has won back-to-back Super Bowls since the New England Patriots in 2003-2004. Only twice since 1994, the beginning of the [add] salary cap era, has a team won back-to-back titles.
The last seven Super Bowl champions did not even win a playoff game the next season.
Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy, who won a Super Bowl with Green Bay in 2010, said that he saw a different approach from opponents the year after winning the title.
"You get everybody's best shot," he said. "That's part of taking the Lombardi Trophy home."
But not everyone agrees with the notion that opponents have a different approach going up against the reigning Super Bowl champions.
Quarterback Joe Flacco dismissed the thought.
"You better always be getting every team's best shot," Flacco said. "I always say that – playoffs, regular season. What would it say about all the guys in the league if we weren't getting everybody's best shot?
"Somebody always feels like they have something to prove against us, just like we always feel like we have something to prove against whoever we're playing. So, defending champs, not defending champs – I don't really think it matters too much."