The Ravens opened training camp this week under sunny skies — both literally and figuratively — and will stage their first full-squad workout Thursday with only one serious question facing them as they prepare for the 2013 season:
Why is everyone at The Castle so conflicted about the Super Bowl?
OK, we get it. That was then. This is now. The focus on the practice field should be on getting ready for the first preseason game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and doing everything possible to have the best chance of beating the Denver Broncos when the regular season begins Sept. 5.
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Everybody knows that, but the reason the media section of the parking lot at the Under Armour Performance Center has been bumper-to-bumper the past couple of days is because the Ravens are a big national story. ESPN and everybody else who cares about the NFL wants to know whether the Ravens can repeat without Ray Lewis and how much better (or worse) Joe Flacco is going to be with that huge new contract.
"First post-practice press conference of the 2013 season," Harbaugh said after Tuesday's rookie workout, "so I guess that means that 2012 is behind us, right?"
It was a laugh line, but you get the feeling that the organization has been bracing for six weeks of questions about last year at a time when old-school football coaches like Harbaugh want every player to be totally focused on this year.
You get the feeling that if he had his way, he'd put the new Lombardi Trophy in Witness Protection.
There is some logic there. The last thing you want to do in the NFL is spend a lot of time beating your chest about who you used to be while you're trying to establish who you are going to be, but there's a reason why every team creates a big glitzy diamond-studded championship ring to distribute to the players and staff, and it's not to help them forget that they won the Super Bowl.
Personally, I think the returning players should be required to wear them whenever they're in the facility, just to make the rookies and newcomers jealous.
It's just possible that winning the NFL's biggest prize might actually make them hungrier to do it again.
"By the same token, we've got a number of guys that haven't been there,'' Harbaugh said. "We've got a lot of guys that are hungry because they haven't been there before, so we'll just see how that mix plays out."
In the meantime, the Ravens are welcome to engage in a voluntary case of selective amnesia, but the rest of you have every right to stay in parade mode all the way to Denver and beyond. No doubt, the first quarter of the Tampa Bay preseason game will be riveting, but that's not why the Ravens are going to make the rundown every night this week on SportsCenter.
That said, there are going to be a lot of tired storylines by the end of training camp. That cliché about "resting on your laurels" — which probably dates back to the first Olympics — needs to be given a quiet memorial service. It's pretty hard to rest on anything when Elvis Dumervil is looking across the line of scrimmage at you in practice.
No one believes for a second that the Ravens are going to lie down this year because half the team has some new jewelry. If professional athletes and coaches are anything, they are greedy when it comes to winning, which is a big reason why they have gotten to the mountaintop.
And, let's be honest, the whole "face of the franchise" angle is a crock. Ray Lewis was a great, great player who was the emotional leader of the team for a long time, but he missed more than half of last season. It was nice that he was able to come back and announce his pending retirement right before the playoffs, but does anybody really think Joe Flacco and Jacoby Jones were thinking about Ray's pension plan when they teamed up on that miracle play against the Broncos?
Lewis made sure he got his share of the face time in the postseason, but Flacco already had emerged as the real leader on the field. No disrespect to Ray or any of the great players of the past, but it's fair to point out that in the seven seasons that followed the 2001 Super Bowl title, the Ravens were a combined 60-52 in the regular season and reached the playoffs just three times. In the five years since Harbaugh and Flacco arrived in Baltimore they are 53-26 with five playoff runs and, well, you know the rest.
They are never going to remind you of that because — as they both pointed out earlier this week — they don't live in the past, but you can if you want.
Defending Super Bowl Champion Ravens still has a nice ring to it.
Read more from columnist Peter Schmuck on his blog, "The Schmuck Stops Here" at baltimoresun.com/schmuckblog and listen when he co-hosts "The Week in Review" at noon Fridays on WBAL (1090 AM) and at wbal.com