With so many new faces, Ravens may have found best defense for Super Bowl hangover

If Ravens’ players and fans aren’t familiar with the following facts, they certainly will be by the time the team begins its title defense on Sept. 5 against the Denver Broncos.

It has been nine years since an NFL team repeated as a Super Bowl winner and eight years since a reigning champion even won a playoff game the following season. Since 1994, only two teams have brought home the Lombardi trophy in back-to-back years.

Whether you believe in the “Super Bowl hangover” or think it’s little more than an overused and media-generated storyline, there’s no disputing the reality that it’s extremely difficult to repeat in the NFL in the
salary cap era.

Ravens head coach John Harbaugh and company will undoubtedly be asked about it many times and the organization has already taken steps to distance itself from the Super Bowl XLVII victory, claiming it’s a new year.

It’s also virtually a new team, led by the never-satisfied Harbaugh and a group of long-time Ravens who have missed the playoffs just once in the past seven years. That combination should be the organization’s best defense against the complacency that some past Super Bowl champions have cited as a definite factor the following season.

Thirty-six of the 90 players on the Ravens’ roster were not with the team when it began its Super Bowl run last January, an unprecedented roster turnover for a defending champion. With the first full-team workout of training camp just under five weeks away, the Ravens could be looking at as many as nine new starters, including three or four rookies.  

Cornerback Marc Anthony, a seventh-round pick in April, tweeted out a picture this week of the Ravens’ rookie class huddled around the Lombardi Trophy while on a trip to the Pro Football Hall of Fame during this week’s NFL Rookie Symposium. It included the words: “Gotta bring it back to the city this year.”

The rookies have been at the Under Armour Performance Center for weeks, hearing stories about the Ravens’ memorable 2012 season and watching the members of that team get bused to the White House to meet President Barack Obama, and then collect their lavish Super Bowl rings at a ceremony in Owings Mills.

The first-year Ravens are certainly not alone in wanting to take part in some of the things that the 2012 team enjoyed. Of the Ravens’ 36 new players, only one of them – defensive end Chris Canty, a member of the 2011 New York Giants – arrives with a Super Bowl ring.     

Veteran Michael Huff, who along with first-round pick Matt Elam will replace last year’s starting safety duo of Ed Reed and Bernard Pollard, played seven seasons with the Oakland Raiders and not only did he never make the playoffs, he was never on a team that had a winning record. Huff joked during the organized team activities of having a suit laid out and being left behind while all his new teammates headed to the White House.

“Just to be around, it makes you hungry,” Huff said. “You want to get another one.”

Veteran linebacker Daryl Smith was officially signed by the Ravens on the day the team was at the White House. He played nine seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars and became the franchise’s all-time leading tackler. He was on playoff teams in two of his first four seasons in the NFL but he hasn’t been back to the postseason since 2007.

Defensive lineman Marcus Spears played eight seasons on some good Dallas Cowboys’ teams, but he has been a part of just one playoff victory in his career. Then there’s the cases of linebacker Elvis Dumervil and center A.Q. Shipley whose previous teams – the Broncos and Indianapolis Colts – were beaten last year during the Ravens’ playoff run.  

“It’s a lot of mixed emotions, you know?,” Dumervil said when asked earlier this offseason about joining the organization that shocked his former team in a double-overtime divisional playoff game in January. “We often watch film and show the Denver highlights, so it’s kind of like, ‘Uhhh.’ But for the most part, it’s a new chapter and I’m excited about that. I couldn’t have come to a better place.”

Dumervil undoubtedly isn’t alone with those thoughts. The many new faces of the organization are treating their this coming season with the Ravens as a new beginning, which should only help in the team’s quest to avoid the same fate of so many recent reigning Super Bowl champions.

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