Nothing like winning -- or losing -- a Super Bowl
Ray Lewis has delivered the message to his teammates repeatedly in the last several days, that there is nothing like winning the Super Bowl, that it will change their lives forever.
Lewis is the only Ravens player qualified to make that statement, because he's the only one left from the team that beat the Giants in Super Bowl XXXV after the 2000 season.
Anquan Boldin has tried almost the opposite approach to emphasize how important it is to beat the 49ers on Sunday: Losing a Super Bowl is one of the worst things you'll ever experience, and the disappointment never goes away completely.
Boldin is the Ravens' only starter to have lost a Super Bowl. He was on the 2008 Cardinals, who fell to the Steelers, 27-23. The Cardinals took the lead late in the fourth quarter before Ben Roethlisberger threw a touchdown pass to Santonio Holmes with 35 seconds left.
"It's definitely been something that's been on my mind since that Super Bowl," Boldin said. "Everything I have done, as far as working out and preparing, has been to get back to this point and to win. I think whenever you're in a situation like that and being a competitor, you don't want to lose. But I think when you do get in a situation like that, it drives you.''
And now comes another chance to make it right. He's imploring his teammates to seize the moment.
"I talked to them last week about getting here and coming up short," Boldin said. "It's something you don't want to have to go through, and it sticks with you for a long time. A lot of times you don't have the chance to get back, so you want to take advantage."
Boldin can become the second 2008 Cardinal to win a ring. Safety Antrel Rolle was on the Giants team that beat the Patriots last year. And when the Giants won the title five years ago, it was sweet redemption for defensive end Michael Strahan and receiver Amani Toomer.
Strahan can relate to what Boldin is going through. He endured that crushing 34-7 loss to the Ravens.
"There's definitely a greater sense of urgency because you realize how hard it was to get there the first time," Strahan said. "You realize that every chance can be your last."
Strahan got that second chance after the 2007 season against the 18-0 Patriots. There were three things he shared with teammates.
"First, my message was that there are so many distractions [during Super Bowl week], so many things going on, but I said, 'You have all the time in the world to go to parties , so don't worry about that,' " Strahan said. " 'If you win, the best parties will be back in New York City.' "
Two: "Don't worry about who gets the credit, because if you win, then everybody will get the credit."
And three: "Don't worry about the pressure. That means nothing. Once you kick off, it's just football, so don't let the situation overwhelm you. Just be in the moment.''
Sounds like good advice. It's almost exactly what Boldin is telling the Ravens as they prepare for the biggest game of their lives.
"Having been there before allows you to understand what this whole week is about," Boldin said. "It also puts in perspective the game itself. For me, it allows me to block out all of the distractions and focus on football."
One game, one more chance to make it right. The chance might never come again.