WASHINGTON — — It is time to put the Ravens Super Bowl championship of 2012-13 away in the history books.
The Ravens gathered again at the White House on Wednesday afternoon to celebrate their championship with President Barack Obama. Presidents like to be in on history and associated with champions. When they call for a visit to the White House, it is the final curtain call.
As they walked down the stairs out to the South Lawn, the Ravens huddled one more time, and it was no coincidence that Terrell Suggs stood near Ray Lewis flanked by Ed Reed and then Ray Rice.
On the other side of the president, stood head coach John Harbaugh, and general manager Ozzie Newsome.
It was a special moment because in Reed and Lewis the Ravens are losing two of their greatest players ever, but that picture will last forever. A championship season in America isn't complete until the winners shake hands with the president.
"Now, I imagine there were times last year when these players were the only ones who knew that they'd make it here to show off this trophy," Obama said.
"Because during the year, they lost player after player to injury; they dropped four of their last five regular season games. In the playoffs, they trailed Denver by a touchdown with 70 yards and less than a minute to go. And I still don't know how — well —."
The crowd started to laugh.
"And then, in the Super Bowl, just when it looked like they had the momentum, the lights went out for a half hour," he said, drawing more laughter. "But these Ravens always pulled through."
This visit was perhaps the last chance for this team to be together again before they have one of those five to 10 year reunions. The Ravens will have one more gathering Friday night with the ring ceremony, but that will draw only local interest. This was one more moment on the national stage.
Most of the players showed up Wednesday. There were a few notable no shows like Anquan Boldin, Bernard Pollard, Paul Kruger, Cary Williams and Michael Oher. Most were dressed in suits and ties avoiding any criticism about proper attire like they did in 2001 when they made their last visit here.
And the president was quite the host. Clearly, he had done his homework. He covered most of the issues in 2012 from the injuries to Lewis' retirement to Joe Flacco's new contract to Jacoby Jones dancing with the stars.
He was charming and had a wonderful sense of humor, even taking time to tease Reed about his gray hair and comparing it to his own. Both have seen more crop up within the last year.
White House officials even tapped into Baltimore history playing the old Colts fight song as the players were introduced. Even more impressive were the Ravens employees who were in attendance. We're not talking about the players, but the daily grunts who take care of day-to-day operations.
Everyone appeared proud and applauded when the president spoke about Flacco. As usual, Flacco wasn't in the front with the other stars of the team.
He was in the back row. Despite the new contract signed shortly after the Super Bowl win, he prefers to stay in the background. It was vintage Joe.
"Joe was named the game's MVP. Where's Joe?," asked the president, looking into the back row for the former University of Delaware quarterback. "There he is. Good timing with that contract up. That was some good timing. I don't know about you, Joe, but I would say that qualifies as elite. And I'd say that if you keep on playing like that, you're going to challenge [Vice President Joe Biden] for the most popular person from Delaware."
The president was on a roll. And as he spoke, those memories of the Ravens offensive success in 2012 kept coming back. Flacco stood out, but he had help during the regular season from Rice. New potential stars emerged like Torrey Smith and Bernard Pierce, and the Ravens finished the season with two dynamic guards in Kelechi Osemele and Marshal Yanda.
Defensively, the Ravens struggled during the regular season, but complemented the offense well enough in the playoffs to win a championship. With the additions of defensive linemen Marcus Spears, Chris Canty, outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil and safety Michael Huff, the expectations are much higher for the 2013 regular season.
But before we look into the future, we had to travel back into the past at least one more time. The president did saluting Lewis and Reed. Their departures mark the end of a dominating defense in Baltimore. Lewis and Suggs, two Pro Bowl players, will never play together again.
Even for those who didn't attend, this was still a special time because some of those players like Williams, Pollard and Kruger have moved on to other teams. Some of those now on new rosters, like Reed and Dannell Ellerbe, were glad to be back among their former teammates.
It was a great day and visit for the Ravens. It's one that the team and the fans will never forget. It's now in the history books, ending with handshakes from the president.