"It's unbelievable," Ravens center Matt Birk said of the crowd at the rally. "There definitely is a special bond with this city and this team. Driving through downtown on the way to the airport and stopping to see the thousands of people there — the atmosphere was special. We don't doubt for one second that our city, our state and our fans are behind us."

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Gov. Martin O'Malley also spoke to the crowd, at times over a low murmur of boos. Rawlings-Blake played on the Ravens' underdog image, as well.

"Let them keep underestimating our Ravens," she said. "Because that's when we shine the best."

Meanwhile, in Washington, Maryland Sens. Barbara A. Mikulski and Ben Cardin made a Super Bowl bet with their colleagues from California. The Marylanders put up Faidley's crab cakes, Bergers cookies and Heavy Seas beer; Mikulski said she would add a can of hairspray. California Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein bet Dungeness crab, Napa Valley wine, sourdough bread and a selection of Northern California cheeses.

The Ravens arrived in New Orleans several hours after the rally, emerging from their chartered plane into sunny skies and temperatures in the upper 70s. Led off the plane by Harbaugh, the players came out in suits and sport coats, many wearing headphones.

Some could be heard laughing, and the words "Super Bowl" floated out from their chatter. The team boarded four buses and, with police motorcycles leading the way, headed to its hotel.

It didn't take long for players to start broadcasting their arrival. "Hello New Orleans. It's officially Super Bowl week," tweeted wide receiver Anquan Boldin.

chris.korman@baltsun.com

twitter.com/chriskorman

Baltimore Sun reporters Yvonne Wenger, Jean Marbella, Jeff Zrebiec and Aaron Wilson contributed to this article.