When the Ravens were in the Super Bowl a dozen years ago, Jack Del Rio guided a group of linebackers headlined by Ray Lewis as well as Peter Boulware and Jamie Sharper.
Now the former Jacksonville Jaguars coach and Minnesota Vikings and Dallas Cowboys linebacker is the defensive coordinator for the Denver Broncos, the Ravens' opponent Saturday night in the AFC divisional round.
“It has been a little bit of time since I was there," Del Rio told Denver reporters. "But the bond, the memories, great time, great place to live and play, I really enjoyed my time there. [Former Ravens majority owner] Mr. [Art] Modell, God rest his soul, just a great owner. The culture that they had there, outstanding. A lot of fond memories looking back, every time I see guys that were on the 2000 Ravens team, you recall those great moments, those memories when we had such a phenomenal run and won a world championship. When you see those guys, no matter when or where, that’s great. But when you’re playing in a game like this, you’re focused on the game. Are there a lot of good memories, a lot of good people that I’ll come across again on Saturday? Absolutely.”
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When Del Rio was coaching Lewis, the two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year was in his prime. He was named the Most Valuable Player in Super Bowl XXXV.
“It was a great time to develop as a young coach on a really talented staff," Del Rio said. "We had a lot of strong people in the room. Marvin Lewis was the coordinator, Mike Smith was actually an assistant, Rex Ryan was there. We had a strong room. Being able to have a talented group to work with, having a guy like Ray Lewis, the way he approaches the game, the tenacity that he attacks things with, it was awesome.
"It was a challenge as a coach because a guy like that, he knows more than most players coming in on Wednesday morning. He’s ahead of it. So you’re challenged to be at your very best to provide him something. I think guys like that, they elevate everybody. Certainly a great football player.”