Ravens inside linebacker Ray Lewis has yet to smash into San Francisco 49ers running back Frank Gore, bark out a defensive signal or stare down quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
That didn’t stop Lewis from setting a serious tone for the Ravens as they began practice Thursday to prepare for next week's Super Bowl in New Orleans.
CBS, which is broadcasting the game, brought an authentic Vince Lombardi trophy to the Ravens' complex Wednesday, intending for the AFC champions to pose with it for pregame video building up to kickoff.
However, Lewis wanted nothing to do with the trophy until it's earned on the field at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome against the 49ers.
“I told my team, 'Don't ever take pictures with nothing that's not yours, nothing that you haven't earned,'“ Lewis said. “When we hold that Lombardi, whoever holds that Lombardi next Sunday, you've earned it when you touch it. And don't fool yourself and try to trick yourself, 'This feels great.'
“Don't go through that. I don't believe in jinxes and all that. I just don't believe in don't set yourself up for something. Just really work for it.”
Lewis' no-nonsense, all-business approach follows a tradition akin to hockey's Stanley Cup by treating the Super Bowl trophy as the equivalent of forbidden fruit before the winner of the championship is actually decided.
And that hands-off policy from the 37-year-old defensive icon has been adopted by his younger teammates.
That includes wide receiver Torrey Smith, the former University of Maryland standout who only allowed himself a brief glimpse of the Lombardi. Then, Smith hurried away from it without hoisting the NFL's top prize named after the legendary former Green Bay Packers coach.
“I'm not about to touch something that I don't own,” Smith said. “You can have the best cake in the world sitting in front of you, and I don't want to touch it.”
So, the Ravens' players posed with a helmet instead of the Super Bowl trophy.
The Ravens already have one Lombardi trophy displayed in a glass case in the lobby of team headquarters. They have an empty case reserved for another one, an ambition they hope to realize next week.
“That was the right decision,” defensive end Arthur Jones said of not posing with the trophy. “Most guys understood to stay away from that trophy. It’s not our trophy. We haven’t earned that trophy yet.
“Once we win this game, then it will be our trophy. Then, we can do whatever we want to the trophy: kiss it, polish it or whatever. But until then, that’s just a dream.”
And Lewis' teammates are quick to follow his advice, as the only player on the roster who already owns a Super Bowl ring.
For Lewis, this entire postseason has unfolded in ideal fashion.
With Lewis operating as the defensive captain and signal caller working in conjunction with defensive coordinator Dean Pees, the Ravens have already defeated the New England Patriots in the AFC championship, the top-seeded Denver Broncos in the AFC divisional round and the Indianapolis Colts in an AFC wild-card game.
Plus, Lewis is the leading tackler in the playoffs with 44 tackles since returning from a surgically-repaired torn right triceps suffered against the Dallas Cowboys back in October.
“My mind is probably as sharp as it is going to be,” Lewis said. “For me right now, I feel fresh. My mind is fresh, my body is fresh and I’m just excited to really be able to end this thing up the right way.”
Lewis' leadership qualities have impacted the Ravens through defensive adjustments and motivational speeches.
He's also a former Super Bowl MVP , an award claimed after the Ravens' rout of the New York Giants in Super Bowl XXXV.
“His leadership, obviously, is really important to us,” Harbaugh said. “His leadership off the field and understanding how to approach a game like this is big for our younger guys. Also, as a football player, he has played really well. He's played just like he's always played.”
Before the playoffs began, Lewis announced that he'll retire after his 17th season.
So, this pending matchup with the 49ers represents Lewis' final NFL game as he'll start his 21st career playoff game.
“I haven’t even said, ‘Oh man, this is your last game, what do you think?'“ Lewis said. “I really haven’t, because I just really am keeping my teammates focused on the real prize. The real prize is actually going and winning the Super Bowl.
“It’s great to get there, don’t get me wrong, but to win it is something special. You feel that confetti drop, then I’ll probably reflect then, when I’m there. But, it really hasn’t crossed my mind like that.”
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