A picture says a thousand words, and this image of Ray Lewis during the 2008 AFC Championship game couldn't say more. After a crushing defeat to the eventual Super Bowl Champion Steelers, the Raven's surprise season was over. One game short of their ultimate goal.
With a rookie head coach and quarterback, the team went further than anybody predicted. Now with these men a year wiser, what are members of the Ravens looking to accomplish? I sat down with Ray Lewis to ask just that.
Jimmy Crytzer: The Ravens clearly bettered all expectations following the drafting of a rookie quarterback... How did that happen?
Ray Lewis: The team really got together behind Joe and Coach Harbaugh in mini-camp and we knew we could win with No. 5 under center.
J.C: With Joe Flacco now a year into the offense, and with all his success last year, will the Ravens see a resurgence on the offensive side of the ball this year?
R.L: We're definitely working on opening up the playbook this season. Joe showed that he can make all the plays, and we have the players on offense who can make the big plays. This team will be one of our best we've had.
J.C: The loss of Defensive Coordinator Rex Ryan as well as Bart Scott and Jim Leonhard puts a few holes in the defense. Is anything going to change this season?
R.L: The team defense will be a strong as ever. Coach Ryan is going to be missed, but the young guys are hungry for their chance to shine. We know the weapons we got on this team.
J.C: Who is going to break out onto the scene this year on defense?
R.L: Look out for Haloti Ngata, he should have been in Hawaii last year, Gooden (Tavares Gooden) will be a threat anytime he is in off the edge.
J.C: How abou the offense, who is everybody overlooking?
R.L: Ray (Ray Rice) and Willis (Willis McGahee) will be strong this year along with our Pro Bowl FB (Le'Ron McClain). You might even see some Wildcat with Troy (Troy Smith) We're full of surprises.
J.C: Is this team just starting to peak?
R.L: We have not even gotten close to our potential. We are young, except for me, and all these guys are hungry for a title. We want one for our city, even more so because Pittsburgh has two.
J.C: Is there a tougher rivalry than Baltimore v. Pittsburgh.
J.C: The Cardinals were one drive away from winning their first Superbowl. What did they do that Baltimore couldn't against Pittsburgh?
R.L: Close doesn't pay the bills...(Laughs) I enjoyed the game, but I couldn't stop thinking that we would have loved to be on that field.
J.C: What will it take to beat Pittsburgh?
R.L: We gotta get more pressure, whether its from the "D" or the "O" We know we are good enough. It comes down to execution.
J.C: The AFC North looks tough with Cincinnati getting Carson Palmer back, Pittsburgh being Superbowl Champions and you all being in the AFC Championship. You think its fair to play so many tough teams?
J.C: Can the old Ravens, the Cleveland Browns, survive in this division?
R.L: Cleveland is always a tough team to predict. They've got the offense and we've had trouble against them. Like I said, there are no free games.
J.C: Is this team ready to make a Superbowl run?
R.L: I think so. Joe is a year stronger and we are finally getting everybody healthy. I think had we played Pittsburgh with all our players back, you'd be asking Flacco what its like to be a rookie Super Bowl Champion.
J.C: You just signed a new deal to play in Baltimore. Are we enjoying the last years of Ray Lewis?
R.L: You know.... I don't know. I've heard everybody say you'll know when it time to hang em up. I feel better now than I did as a rookie so who knows?
J.C: You've seen guys like Adalius Thomas, Ed Hartwell, and now Bart Scott leave for greener pastures, but never produce like they did here... Why is that?
R.L: When guys go into free agency they are told so much bull s*it, from coaches. They are promised that the system will fit them, but it never really does. I loved playing with those guys and would gladly welcome them back in purple and black.
J.C: Final question. Qhat is your personal prediction for the Baltimore Ravens this season, give me a record and how far you'll go.
R.L: Hmm... I'd say we go 12-4 and win the division. We make it to the Superbowl this year.
J.C: Who are you playing in the Superbowl?
R.L: I'd say the Vikings...
J.C: Is Brett Favre playing in this game?
R.L:... Yeah, he is.
J.C: Final score?
R.L: 24-3, US.
J.C: If you all win the Super Bowl, will Ray Lewis retire?
R.L: (Laughs..) Gotta try to repeat!