Upbeat Harbaugh not sweating Ravens' losses, hopeful of Reed return

Ravens head coach draws a crowd at the league meetings

March 19, 2013|By Jeff Zrebiec, The Baltimore Sun


The reality of the Ravens’ salary cap situation and post Super Bowl XLVII world hit coach John Harbaugh early last week. With the Ravens failing to convince wide receiver Anquan Boldin to take a pay cut and not willing to carry his $6 million salary cap hit, Harbaugh knew exactly who to call.

“Heck yes,” his brother, Jim, the coach of San Francisco 49ers, said when asked if he was interested in acquiring Boldin, a player that they struggled to stop a month earlier in the Super Bowl. In less than an hour, the deal was consummated and Boldin was headed to San Francisco for a sixth-round pick. The Ravens lost one of their postseason heroes but gained necessary salary cap space, a common theme for the organization over the past couple of weeks.

In front of the national media for the first time since the Ravens claimed their second Super Bowl championship with a 34-31 victory, Harbaugh was asked far more about what was lost over the last six weeks rather than what was gained.

“One thing we’re going to do is cherish and be proud of this championship forever,” said Harbaugh, speaking on Day Two of the NFL Annual Meetings at the Arizona Biltmore Hotel. “That team, as it was put together, will walk together forever as champions. And now, we’ll find out about the 2013 team and how we align and what we’re going to be known for and what we’re going to stand for as a football team, and that begins really now as we put the thing together. We’re going to build the foundation of our football team.”

As Harbaugh was reminded Tuesday simply by the nature of the questions from reporters, the Ravens have plenty of work to do. They have already lost eight players that started games this past season, including the anchor of the offensive line (Matt Birk), their leading sacker (Paul Kruger), the long-time face of their franchise (Ray Lewis) and his potential heir apparent at inside linebacker (Dannell Ellerbe). Three other players who started extensively last season remain on the free agent market.

“You can’t feel sorry for yourself. Nobody’s feeling sorry for you,” Harbaugh said. “We have to move on to next year. We’re disappointed about it. It’s tough. We’ve had a lot of conversations … today about that part of it, the emotional part of it and balancing the emotional part with the business part. I don’t think you can walk away from that. It’s real. We’ve got friendships with these guys. Their families have been around. Our kids play together. We’ve been through a lot together. They were involved in every decision we made every single day. That’s tough. That’s something we’re going to have to figure out going forward.”

The Ravens are used to this by now. Every offseason seems to spur an exodus of valuable members of the team’s nucleus. However, this year, it may be a little tougher because of how much work and effort went into the team’s Super Bowl run. But as hard as it is, owner Steve Bisciotti, general manager Ozzie Newsome and Harbaugh know that sentimentality can’t play a prominent role in decision making.

“No team ever stays the same. We understand it,” Harbaugh said. “It’s mostly difficult because we had the success last year and we won a championship last year. You’d like to hold on to that, but you can’t hold on to it. It’s not the nature of it. We’ve had this kind of turnover really every year for the last five years to one degree or another, pretty much more than anybody in the league. We know how to deal with it and Ozzie does a great job with it.”

Harbaugh also addressed a variety of other topics, including Ed Reed’s future with the team, his relationship with his brother and the Ravens’ needs as they move on with the offseason.

** While there has been no indication that the Ravens have made any progress in re-signing Ed Reed, Harbaugh said he has his fingers crossed and remains “very hopeful” that a deal can be reached to bring the safety back for a 12th season in Baltimore.

“I think it’s kind of a situation where we know Ed really well,” Harbaugh said. “Ed and I are very close and I know he would tell you the same. We’ve had text conversations back and forth. I think he’s enjoying the offseason. He had his healthiest year that he’s had in the last few years. He was a great leader. Our relationship has just blossomed. It’s been good, but this year with Ed especially, we really just got close.”

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