By David Zurawik
The Baltimore Sun
4:26 PM EST, January 29, 2013
CBS Super Bowl broadcasters Jim Nantz and Phil Simms say they see a lot more than just Ray Lewis when they look at the Baltimore Ravens.
And come Sunday, the conversation they do have about Lewis in the biggest broadcast booth in popular culture is going to be primarily about his play on the field and inspirational power in the locker room - not what happened in Atlanta.
"I would just say, Ravens?" Nantz said Tuesday when asked for his sense of the team's image during a teleconference. "Tough. Tenacious defense. Extremely motivated. Intense. A quarterback that's turning into a superstar before our very eyes. And really a coach that is special. That's how I see them."
When asked if he thinks that's a shift from the start of the year when executive producers and broadcasters still seemed to see Ray Lewis almost exclusively as the face of the franchise, Nantz said, "I think that's a good point. I think Joe Flacco, he's not asking for it. But just look what he's done during the playoffs here with eight touchdowns, no picks. He's been spectacular..."
"I know that team really believes in him," Nantz added. "There was time 10 years ago or whenever it was, I don't know when it would have stopped, when everybody thought it was only about Ray Lewis. But there are now a lot of very special parts to this Ravens team. And Flacco's a huge part of it."
As to how much the focus will be on Lewis Sunday, Harold Bryant, the vice president in charge of production for CBS Sports, said, "We're going to tell Ray's story [with the off-field history] in the pre-game... And then, Jim and Phil will call the game like they normally call a game."
A follow-up question asked how much of the coverage, if the Ravens win, "will be about him [Lewis] winning, which might turn off some viewers, and how much will he just be one of the players."
"It will be about the team winning, and what the team has accomplished," Bryant said. "Of course, he's a star and we'll focus on him, but this is definitely a team accomplishment for Baltimore if they win."
"I'll just say this, I'm going to judge how he plays on the field," said Phil Simms, the CBS analyst. "I'm going give you some of my thoughts about what he's done in the comeback since the playoffs have started. What role he really plays on the defensive side: Is it as big as people really think? I'll explain that. [Another of the] stories I would talk about is him being there emotionally: Has that really raised the level of play so great that that's why this Baltimore team is in the Super Bowl?"
"...I know what you're asking: Are we going to go back and cover when he was down in Atlanta and got in trouble down there," Simms continued. "Who doesn't know that story? How many people have gone out there and reported on it? And I don't know if there's time to do a story like that justice during the Super Bowl."
Simms concluded, "We can't re-live everybody's life out there when the game is being played. So, myself, I'm just going to talk about him as a football player, what he's doing in the game, how he's affected the team physically .Has he truly lifted the emotion of that football team where it's driven them to the Super Bowl? Those are the things I'll deal with."
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