OWINGS MILLS, Md. When the Baltimore Ravens last went to the Super Bowl, Art Modell was the owner, Brian Billick served as head coach, and Trent Dilfer was the starting quarterback.
Now, 12 years later, they're back with owner Steve Bisciotti, coach John Harbaugh, quarterback Joe Flacco and one significant link to both teams: Ray Lewis.
Drawing inspiration from Lewis, their longtime middle linebacker, the Ravens bullied their way past New England 28-13 in Sunday night's AFC Championship Game and set up a matchup with the 49ers.
The victory ended a drought for a franchise with one Super Bowl appearance in its 17 years of existence.
Lewis was voted the Super Bowl MVP after the Ravens beat the New York Giants 34-7 on Jan. 28, 2001. He announced earlier this month he would retire after Baltimore completes its playoff run, and his teammates were determined to make sure that didn't happen before the Super Bowl.
"Ray is a guy who's been here since the beginning of this franchise," strong safety Bernard Pollard said Monday. "He's a guy who is the Raven. We respect him when he speaks. Everybody stops and everybody hears him. He's kept this team together; he's kept this organization together in so many ways."
Lewis knows what it takes to win. He knows about playing in the Super Bowl. Most of all, he knows how to get his teammates ready to play with intensity.
"Everyone knows what kind of player he is and what he's meant to this team and this organization," center Matt Birk said. "There's probably not another leader like him. There's no one like him, somebody that means as much as he does to this team."
Lewis got to the Super Bowl in his fifth season, then had to wait until his 17th to get back. In between, Modell sold majority ownership of the team to Bisciotti in 2004 and Harbaugh replaced Billick, who was fired following the 2007 season.
Harbaugh on Monday paid homage to Modell, who died in September, and voiced praise for the current owner.
"Art Modell is the foundation, the bulwark of this organization," Harbaugh said.
Dilfer, meanwhile, was released within months of his solid Super Bowl performance.
He was replaced by Elvis Grbac, who played one season before retiring.
The Ravens then went through a half-dozen starting quarterbacks, including Anthony Wright, Chris Redman, Kyle Boller and Steve McNair, before taking Flacco in the first round of the 2008 draft.
Flacco took over as a rookie in the season opener and has started every game since.
One day after throwing three touchdown passes and outplaying New England quarterback Tom Brady, Flacco couldn't fully comprehend the enormity of going to the Super Bowl.
"I think we're still on a little bit of a high from the game," Flacco said.
Beating Brady and the second-seeded Patriots after knocking off the top-seeded Denver Broncos and Peyton Manning? It was almost as if the Ravens needed to pinch themselves.
"I'm just kind of numb to the whole thing," Birk said.