Swapping Stories

June 5, 2013

Swapping 187 stories?

Praising the Ravens’ resilience, courage and their dedication to the community, President Barack Obama honored the Super Bowl XLVII champions at a ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House this afternoon.

Under bright sunny skies and on a warm yet comfortable afternoon in the nation’s capital, current and former Ravens, including the retired Ray Lewis, and Ed Reed, who has since signed with the Houston Texans, lined up behind Obama and the Lombardi Trophy as the 44th President celebrated the organization’s second Super Bowl victory.

“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 as he stood directly in front of Ravens coach John Harbaugh, general manager Ozzie Newsome, running back Ray Rice and linebacker Terrell Suggs. “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 then in the Super Bowl, just when it looked like they had the momentum, the lights went out for a half hour. But these Ravens always pulled through.”

Wearing a gray suit and a purple tie, Obama, who hosted the team on a tour of the White House earlier in the day, had some fun with several Ravens. Highlighting Super Bowl Most Valuable Player Joe Flacco’s postseason accomplishments, which ultimately earned the quarterback a six-year, $120.6 million contract extension, Obama joked, “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.”

Obama asked Lewis to refrain from doing the former linebacker’s patented “Squirrel” dance and ripping up the South Lawn. He then declined a request from Rice to mimic the dance. However, he went on to praise Lewis, who retired after his 17th NFL season, for going out on top. He then turned his attention to Reed, who played 11 seasons in Baltimore before leaving as a free agent in March.

“Before he left [for] Houston, where he’ll be playing next year, Ed took out a full-page ad in The Baltimore Sun to thank Ravens fans. So that’s a class act,” Obama said, turning to Reed. “I will point out, by the way, that Ed is getting some gray hair — I’m not the old one. You’re like an old man.”

Obama then highlighted the multiple ways the Ravens are giving back to the community, including the organization’s latest commitment to donate brand new uniforms for varsity football and girls basketball teams at public schools across Baltimore. Obama said that the Ravens will make the donation to 42 teams.

“So this year, Baltimore won’t just be seeing the Ravens on Sundays or Monday night or Thursday night,” Obama said. “You’ll see their impact in high schools under Friday night lights. And that’s a testimony to the connection they feel to this city.”

Before stepping aside from the podium to allow for brief remarks from Newsome and Harbaugh, the President again congratulated the Ravens and wished them luck in the upcoming season.

“You’re going to need it in Week 11 when you go to my hometown of Chicago to play the Bears,” he joked.

Newsome thanked Obama on behalf of the organization and team owner Steve Bisciotti, who didn’t attend the event. Harbaugh then presented Obama with a No. 44 jersey – the number of Pro Bowl fullback Vonta Leach – that read “Mr. President.”

“On behalf of all the Ravens, I want to thank Mr. President for hosting us all here today,” Harbaugh said. “It’s an unbelievable honor. We are grateful. And I want you to know, we have plans to be back next year.”

As the Ravens players shook Obama’s hand and departed the South Lawn and headed to the buses that would take them back to Baltimore, The White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army,” a fixture at M&T Bank Stadium, played from the sound system.

Players did not speak to the media but several went to their Twitter accounts to explain the magnitude of the day.

“One of the best experiences of my life!!!!!” Suggs tweeted.

“Wow,” said wide receiver Jacoby Jones.

Most of last year’s team made the trip, including linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, who signed with the Miami Dolphins this offseason, and veteran reserves Bobbie Williams and Brendon Ayanbadejo, who were both released after the season. As expected, Anquan Boldin, who was traded to the San Francisco 49ers in March, and Bernard Pollard, who was released, did not attend the ceremony.

Linebacker Paul Kruger and cornerback Cary Williams also did not come because they were participating in minicamps with their new teams. The retired Matt Birk and the team’s current right tackle, Michael Oher, were also not at the White House.

Several players who did not attend are expected to go to the team’s private ring ceremony Friday at the Under Armour Performance Center.



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