Baltimore plans to be all business in Tampa
Updated: Thursday January 18, 2001 8:52 PM
OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) -- All those knee operations, smashed fingers and jarring collisions are paying off for Baltimore defensive tackle Tony Siragusa, who after 11 years in the NFL will play in his first Super Bowl.
His sense of humor ought to be a big attraction on media day next week, and there's a very good chance the 350-pound "Goose" will sample the pasta at several Italian restaurants in Tampa.
But this is a business trip, and the immediate task for him and his teammates is to beat the New York Giants on Jan. 28.
"If you're lucky, you get a shot at being world champions. Maybe only one," Siragusa said. "Dan Marino went to the Super Bowl the second year he was in the league and never went back. You've got to grasp the moment when you can."
Fact: Franchises making their first trip to the Super Bowl are 8-16. Call it "The Happy to Be Here Phenomenon," and the 1998 Atlanta Falcons are a perfect case study.
The Falcons upset the heavily favored Minnesota Vikings on the road in the NFC Championship Game, then got beat handily by Denver in their initial Super Bowl appearance. The Falcons subsequently failed to reach .500 in each of the next two seasons.
Unlike Siragusa, Ravens cornerback Chris McAlister is in the Super Bowl in only his second season. But he knows it would be foolish to think that his presence in the game will become an annual event.
As far as he's concerned, this could be his only shot at obtaining the one bit of jewelry that every pro football player covets.
"It's not a guarantee I can ever get back to the Super Bowl," McAlister said. "The way football is, our team is not going to stand intact next year; with free agency, you have to expect some people to be gone. I want to make the most of this opportunity and walk away with a big ring with 35 diamonds on it."
If there's anyone on the Ravens who doesn't think that way, he'd better not let tight end Shannon Sharpe know about it. Sharpe, who has already played in two Super Bowls, isn't going to Tampa just to see friends or walk through a couple of amusement parks.
"You have to realize what you're going to Tampa for. Disney World is 45 minutes away, you've got Busch Gardens ... there are a lot of things that can distract your attention," he said. "But the main focus is to win a football game, and you cannot lose sight of that."
No matter what happens in the Super Bowl, the Ravens (15-4) have already succeeded beyond their most optimistic expectations. Actually, the season became one for the books when they made the playoffs for the first time after going 24-39-1 since owner Art Modell moved the franchise from Cleveland in 1996.
If the Ravens were going to rest on their laurels, it could have happened against Denver in the wild-card game, or even more likely, last week in the AFC championship game against the Oakland Raiders, according to head coach Brian Billick.
"Having done what we did to get to Oakland -- winning on the road in Tennessee -- there could have a sense of, 'Well, we got to the championship game, win or lose, what the heck. We had a great year.' And it would have been a good year had we lost," Billick said. "But not the year we're capable of having."
Or, as cornerback Duane Starks put it: "It makes no sense to get to the playoffs if you're not going to play in the Super Bowl. And it makes no sense to play in the Super Bowl if you're not going to win it."