NEW ORLEANS — The Baltimore Ravens’ reputation for trash-talking arrived at the Super Bowl before they did.
While the Ravens were en route from Baltimore to the Big Easy, the San Francisco 49ers already were preparing for a war of words with the chattiest team in the NFL.
“Most teams don’t really talk that much, but I’ve heard stories about them talking a lot,” San Francisco guard Alex Boone said. “Guys have told me not to get into it with them. We’re not here to get into a yelling match.”
That might change a bit Sunday when both teams play for the NFL championship at the Superdome. The Ravens developed their swagger years ago under coach Brian Billick, who rarely backed away from a microphone and made no effort to put a muzzle on his players, most notably Shannon Sharpe and Tony Siragusa — both of whom now are being paid to blab as television commentators.
Baltimore’s current coach, John Harbaugh, doesn’t encourage such brashness. But he won’t stop it, either. After the Ravens beat New England to win the AFC championship, Baltimore safety Bernard Pollard insisted that Patriots quarterback Tom Brady should be fined for a leg-up slide even though Brady apologized afterward.
Linebacker Terrell Suggs topped that in an interview with Yahoo Sports, calling the Patriots “arrogant” and telling them “to have fun at the Pro Bowl.”
Now that he’s on football’s biggest stage, Suggs has taken it down a few decibels.
, judging by his tone at Monday’s media interviews. Here’s a bulletin: He said nothing the 49ers might consider clipping from a newspaper and pinning to the bulletin board for motivation.
“I’m going to talk to you guys with the obligated time that I’m supposed to talk to you guys ... and I’m going to stick to that,” Suggs said.
Asked if he might say something juicy later in the week, Suggs replied, “Nothing I do is scripted. You’ve got to wait and see what I come up with.”
It might be worth the wait, although Harbaugh seems to think Suggs and the rest of the team will resist the temptation.
“Our guys are class guys. We’ll play with character, we’ll play with class,” Harbaugh said. “We’ll be a tough, hard-nosed football team. That’s the way we’ll play. Before the game, after the game.”
That’s not what the 49ers have heard.
“Talk is cheap. I’ll leave it at that,” linebacker NaVorro Bowman said. “We’ve all got to play with those pads on. That’s what does the talking for us.”
Linebacker Ray Lewis does much of the talking for the Baltimore defense. After leading the unit in an emotional chant following each pregame workout, Lewis yells the signals on the field and usually has something bold to say to an opponent he’s dropped to the turf.
“Ray and Suggs, they like to talk a lot but they’re great players, so it’s kind of warranted,” 49ers fullback Bruce Miller said.
“I think that’s just the way they motivate their team,” San Francisco cornerback Tarrell Brown added. “Everybody feeds off that. Whatever works for them, that’s good.”
When Lewis told his teammates earlier this month that he was going to retire after the current postseason run, Suggs thought the team’s vocal leader was merely gearing up for another speech.
“He always talks to the team before the game, the middle of the season and going into the playoffs,” Suggs said. “I thought it was another day at the office, but he said some key words. It struck me. He said maybe it was time to start doing something else and it just kind of puzzled me and then it hit me. It really focused our team, not only to get it done for him, but just how precious this time and these moments are. You don’t get these opportunities every day.”
Lewis may the most prolific talker on the team, but he’s not the only one who enjoys yapping. As soon as they got off the plane from Baltimore, Suggs, Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Matt Birk, Ray Rice and Joe Flacco were made available to the media.
While Lewis discussed, among other things, his pending retirement, his family and his love for God, Reed talked about everything from his training habits to his experience as a punt, pass and kick participant in New Orleans more than two decades ago.
None of it was going to get the 49ers riled up before Sunday’s game, which is just the way Harbaugh likes it.
“I think we’re very respectful of our opponents,” the coach said. “We always have been, and our opponents have respected us over the years. The team we’re playing is built the same way. We’ve got a lot of respect for the 49ers. We’ve got a lot of respect for their coach, the coaching staff, their players, and I expect it to be played in that way.”