We have seen the New England Patriots, the Indianapolis Colts, and the Pittsburgh Steelers dominate Super Bowl appearances in the AFC over the last decade. You have to go back to the 2002 season and the Oakland Raiders to find a different franchise in the Super Bowl. The NFC has been a little more diverse, but San Francisco is making their first appearance since the 1994 season.
The net effect of this is that only three players who have a chance to take the field in two weeks already have a Super Bowl ring. Ray Lewis is the only player on Baltimore’s roster who has won a title before, while Jonathan Goodwin (2009, New Orleans) and Clark Haggans (2005, Pittsburgh) are the San Francisco representatives in the past rings club. Goodwin is a starter, while Haggans was active in the championship game as a reserve linebacker. In addition, one of the heroes of last year’s game, Mario Manningham, is on injured reserve and will not be participating in the game.
This one is for all the veterans who have toiled for a long time in this league, and who will now get their opportunity. Matt Birk and Anquan Boldin have both been here before, while Ray Rice, Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs, and Haloti Ngata are in for the first time. Five time all-pro Patrick Willis is in the Super Bowl in his sixth year, Justin Smith is going after twelve seasons, and Frank Gore can add a Super Bowl to being the franchise’s all-time leading rusher.
Much will be made of the brothers Harbaugh and the quarterbacks and Ray Lewis retiring over the next two weeks. One hundred and three guys, though, know how difficult it is to get here and win. It is a great year for the guys who have starred for a long time without winning it all.
[photo via USA Today Sports Images]