By Aaron Wilson, The Baltimore Sun
6:09 PM EST, January 26, 2013
The Ravens wrapped up their first week of preparation for the Super Bowl, concluding an uneventful three days with a final indoor practice Saturday morning before taking a day off Sunday.
Now, the Ravens' next destination is New Orleans, where they'll arrive Monday afternoon heading into their matchup with the San Francisco 49ers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
"We're pulling up stakes on Monday and heading down to New Orleans," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "We've had a great week. We've been through the whole week in terms of a normal week. We had an excellent practice. Our guys are very sharp, and they're excited.
"We'll have to get down there and do just as well and do better. We'll have to build on these practices. We'll have to stack good practices to be ready to play a great football team in the San Francisco 49ers, a very well-coached football team, I might add."
Of course, the 49ers are coached by Harbaugh's younger brother, Jim Harbaugh.
The unprecedented matchup between two brothers for the Vince Lombardi Trophy is likely to dominate conversation all week heading into next Sunday's kickoff.
Both the Ravens and 49ers have tried to maintain their focus. This marks the second game between the Harbaugh brothers after John Harbaugh's Ravens defeated the 49ers, 16-6, in a physical Thanksgiving game last season at M&T Bank Stadium.
Although the Super Bowl is accompanied by potential distractions in the French Quarter and the hype of Media Day, Harbaugh emphasized that he'll remind his players that the actual game doesn't change.
"The stage is big, but the field is small," Harbaugh said. "There are going to be these big thick white lines right there. We are going to be in between those white lines. You take that into perspective. We might show them that scene from 'Hoosiers.' Gene Hackman, who I met, tremendous guy. We'll show them that scene, I think."
The recent addition of former Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator and offensive line coach Juan Castillo to the coaching staff has provided a new wrinkle to the Ravens' game-plan and scouting reports.
Castillo joined the staff Monday as a consultant and will take on the title of run-game coordinator next season.
Castillo worked previously with Harbaugh in Philadelphia on former coach Andy Reid's staff. After the Eagles fired him earlier this season, Castillo interviewed with the Oakland Raiders and drew interest from the Chicago Bears and several other teams.
Harbaugh said Castillo had job offers from multiple NFL teams for various positions.
"Juan is a tremendous football coach," Harbaugh said. "He had lots of opportunities. He has been coaching in the NFL for a long time, both sides of the ball, obviously with a lot of responsibility. Highly knowledgeable, a great teacher, I had a chance to work with him for 10 years in Philadelphia.
"So, I know this man very well, know his family. He's a very good person. And it's an opportunity for us to improve our football team, the overall talent pool that we have here. We add him into our staff, which already is just a great staff. It makes us better, and that's the whole idea. ... He chose to come here."
As a run-game coordinator, Castillo is expected to provide guidance to running backs coach Wilbert Montgomery and offensive line coach Andy Moeller while working in conjunction with offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell.
"He'll be a lead coach in terms of the run game and organizing the run game for us," Harbaugh said. "Of course, he'll work closely with Jim and all the coaches. Who's in charge of what? Guys work together on a staff. Coach Caldwell has done a great job of making that point time and time again."
Birk focused on game
Six-time Pro Bowl center Matt Birk insists he hasn't decided whether he'll retire after the Super Bowl.
In his 15th NFL season, the 36-year-old Harvard graduate will contemplate his future during the offseason.
"I don't think like that," Birk said when asked if he has thought about retirement. "I'm just trying to live in the moment. That's just kind of my mindset. I don't think about the future, whether this could be it. It drives my wife nuts, but that's not how I operate. I don't know what it will be like when I walk away, but I'm very fortunate.
"You realize how lucky you are. You realize it won't last forever. Guys my age tell me, the real world isn't all it's cracked up to be. You realize this is a unique way to make a living, a unique atmosphere, unique work. You got to enjoy it because you work too hard not to enjoy some of the moments."
Birk started every game and drew praise for limiting New England Patriots Pro Bowl defensive lineman Vince Wilfork to one tackle in the AFC championship after struggling against him a year ago.
"I'm not sure about Matt's plans, and if he decides to come back next year, that'd be awesome," Harbaugh said. "Matt Birk has been a huge part of this program for the last four years. He's smart, he's tough. To my eye, he is playing the best football that he's played since he's been here right now at this point.
"To have that be true at the end of a 24-game season [including the preseason] is very impressive. So, he's just done a great job for us, and we would not be where we're at without Matt Birk."
Ellerbe misses third practice
Ravens starting inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe was held out of practice for the third consecutive day due to a sprained right ankle and minor back injury.
Ellerbe was at practice, but he wasn't dressed.
Ellerbe has previously said he could definitely play in the Super Bowl, even if the game was this Sunday instead of a week from now.
Meanwhile, tight end Dennis Pitta (thigh) returned to practice after not practicing on Friday.
Wide receiver David Reed (hamstring) didn't practice.
After battling through the regular season with his recovery from a torn right Achilles tendon and also dealing with a torn right biceps, outside linebacker Terrell Suggs has had a resurgent postseason.
Suggs has 19 tackles and two sacks in three playoff games after recording 22 tackles and two sacks in eight regular-season games.
The former NFL Defensive Player of the Year appears to be getting healthier and more mobile in recent weeks.
"We haven't monitored or charted his explosive quotient so far, but he is getting better," Harbaugh said. "I think he's becoming quicker, faster, more explosive, stronger, all of those things. You can tell that it is healing, and he is just playing more like a normal, 100-percent Terrell Suggs would play. So, what you are seeing is exactly right."
Josh Charles 'inspired' by Ravens
Josh Charles didn't want to wait until arriving in New Orleans for the Super Bowl to spend some time hanging out with the Ravens.
So, the Emmy Award-nominated actor from the television drama series "The Good Wife" has been a fixture at the Ravens' training complex over the past few days, attending practices and chatting with players like quarterback Joe Flacco in the locker room.
"It's an inspiring group of guys," he said. "I'm hoping they can finish it. It will put the perfect exclamation point on what's been an incredible ride that's made the state and the city really proud. I'm thrilled for them. They're good dudes."
Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun