NEW ORLEANS — Twelve years ago, Steve Bisciotti arrived for Super Bowl XXXV as a minority owner of the Ravens, content to remain in the background and have fun with his friends.
Bisciotti, his wife, Renee, and his assistant, Pam Lund, arranged for 250 family members to travel to Tampa, Fla., for the game. He rented a corporate tent and hired a band for pregame entertainment, and then he watched the game from a suite at Raymond James Stadium.
After the Ravens beat the New York Giants, 34-7, to capture the franchise's lone title, Bisciotti was on the field to watch the trophy presentation and then he took his sons inside the victorious locker room.
"I was kind of a fly on the wall for the whole experience. It was still Art's team. All I did was ask the Modell's for a block of tickets so I could take all my friends," Bisciotti said Thursday during a rare interview. "Yeah, it was a great thrill, but like Cal Ripken [Jr.] winning the World Series with the Orioles] in his second year, you think, 'Boy, this is pretty cool.' Then, here we are 12 years later before we've got a chance to do it again, and all we've done is gotten here. The last time, we won it. It's certainly not going to be fulfilled if we don't win it."
Bisciotti arrived in New Orleans on Wednesday evening, four days before his Ravens will play the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII. While the stage is now all his — he completed the purchase of the Ravens from the late Modell in 2004 — he remains adamant about maintaining a low profile.
However, he consented to an interview with a small group of reporters Thursday at the downtown Hilton hotel that is serving as the Ravens' Super Bowl week headquarters. Wearing the 2000 Super Bowl ring on his finger, Bisciotti discussed what another title would mean to his legacy.
"I would be lying if I didn't say that I feel like the first one is half-mine. Yes, I believe that the decisions that we made were so far down the stream with me as an owner, sure, you ultimately want to have that," Bisciotti said. "I get to set the reset button to zero if we win. I mean five days from now , we're either going to be setting the reset button and saying it's been one year, two years since our second Super Bowl, or it's been 13, 14, 15 years since our only Super Bowl. So I want that for Baltimore, I want it for [general manager Ozzie Newsome], I want it for [coach] John Harbaugh. Everybody gets to press the reset button and say, 'Yeah, now we're the defending world champs.'"
Bisciotti conceded that he was devastated by the team's last-second loss to the New England Patriots in the AFC championship last season, though a win Sunday would surely erase any bad memories that linger.
"I'm 52. I don't want to be 62, saying it's been 22 years since our Super Bowl," he said. "If you look at the league, there's about a third of the league that's never won one, a third of the league that's won one, and a third of the league that's won multiples. So I'm very aware of the fact that if we win this, the Ravens get to step into that top third of being multiple Super Bowl winners in only a 17-year existence, and it would make me very happy for Baltimore."
In a 35-plus minute interview, Bisciotti touched on a variety of other topics:
** While offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden, the Ravens' first ever draft pick, is viewed as a near lock to be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday, Modell's situation is far more complicated. He is a finalist, but there remain voters who are opposed to his candidacy because of his decision to move the Browns out of Cleveland.
Bisciotti doesn't expect Cleveland to understand or forgive. However, he said that city's rabid fan base should not be the reason Modell is kept out of the Hall of Fame.
"It seems like a spite thing and not a legitimate 'let's look at the resume thing,' and that's really what I hope changes this year," he said. "I do think he's the most accomplished person in the history of the NFL that is not in."
** Bisciotti categorically denied playing a major role in the Dec. 10 firing of offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, calling those reports "ridiculous and "hurtful."
"I don't push or force John [Harbaugh] to do anything," Bisciotti said. "John called me. I didn't call John. He said he already spoke to Ozzie and was pretty sure he was going to make this decision. ... It's a little hurtful to be accused of doing something that I didn't do, and nobody would corroborate that story. I didn't do it, and Ozzie didn't do it. We're there as John's sounding board."
** While quarterback Joe Flacco's contract situation will inevitably dominate the headlines this offseason — Bisciotti said he's "very comfortable" that it will get done — the organization will also have to make a decision on longtime safety Ed Reed, who is eligible for free agency. In his 11th NFL season, Reed has said that he doesn't plan to retire. However, he's changed his mind in the past and Bisciotti said the Ravens are prepared to let the situation play out, much like they did with Ray Lewis after the 2008 season.
"First, we have to find out where Ed's head is," Bisciotti said. "I think that, win or lose Sunday, Ed needs a couple of weeks. By that time, we will have done our personnel meetings and our cap meetings and we'll know what kind of deal that we can make Ed. I assume we'll make a deal that we made with Ray a few years ago. If Ed wants to test the market like Ray did, that's what we have to do."
** Bisciotti was in the Bahamas in December when he was informed by Harbaugh that Lewis was looking to speak to him. Bisciotti, who has developed a close relationship with Lewis, wasn't convinced that the linebacker would have returned for the 2012 season had the Ravens won the Super Bowl. So when he heard that Lewis wanted to talk to him, he sensed what the 37-year-old was going to tell him.
"He just said, 'I talked to John and I talked to Ozzie and I'm done after this,'" Bisciotti recalled. "He said, 'I'm very, very comfortable with it.' We spoke for a few minutes. I just said, mum is the word until you decide to announce it or tell the team. That lasted, I think, a month."
Lewis has been in the spotlight all week, and not just because he's preparing for the final game of a 17-year career. Sports Illustrated reported this week that Lewis may have used a banned-substance to accelerate his return from a torn triceps injury.
Bisciotti said that "Sports Illustrated is not worthy of a response," though he added, "the love that the players have for Ray, I think that it probably [ticked] them off."