PHOENIX — It has been six weeks since Steve Bisciotti stood on a podium at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans and raised the Lombardi Trophy aloft, celebrating his team's 34-31 victory over the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII and his crowning achievement as the Ravens' owner.
Since then, he has been touched by the numerous emails and phone calls that he has gotten from fellow owners and buoyed by the belief that the Ravens continue to do things the right way. He shared the victory with many, recently buying two motorcycles for the Baltimore City Police Department after doing the same for officers in New Orleans who took care of the team during Super Bowl week.
But like coach John Harbaugh and the rest of the organization, Bisciotti has already turned his attention to next season and moving on from the recent losses of several key performers on the title-winning team.
Looking tanned and relaxed in black slacks and a black-and-white dress shirt, Bisciotti sat down Monday with The Baltimore Sun at the Arizona Biltmore Hotel, the site of this week's NFL annual meetings. He discussed the loss of Anquan Boldin and several other free agents, the futures of Ed Reed and Ray Lewis and his expectations for the organization going forward.
What have the last six weeks been like for you after winning the Super Bowl?
It's just the validation that the decisions that we make — as tough as they are — can result in a championship. So I'm not long-winded, that's it. We are in a business where we are questioned constantly and critiqued and disparaged because of the tough decisions we have to make. So it's history-making. It's nice to bring a championship to Baltimore and as a life-long Baltimore sports fan, I know what it means. I still remember where I was in '83 with the Orioles when Eddie Murray hit [two] home runs. It's a special feeling and it builds the pride in Baltimore. It's a great feeling when, in the league circle, they appreciate the way we do business. They wish it was them, but I think that there are some out there that are happy we got rewarded for doing things the right way.
Was there a time late in the regular season where you doubted this team could win a Super Bowl?
No, I didn't. We're somewhat insulated from that gloom and doom. We don't have time to deal with it. We're not changing because of gloom-and-doom, perceived weaknesses that we have. We've seen us click, we saw them click from Week 1 to the Giants game when we needed to secure a playoff berth. I had faith that we were getting healthy and getting better as a team. I didn't think the road to the Super Bowl was going to be any more difficult than it was the year before when it ended in New England.
You guys made it clear that you expected to lose some players and you weren't going to make the same mistakes the organization did last time it won the Super Bowl. But was the last week or so still difficult to see guys leave?
Yeah, it's very difficult but we've had some experience with this, going all the way back to releasing Jamal Lewis. That is singularly the toughest thing you have to deal with as a business man, that people who get successful get rewarded not by you but by other teams. It will always be the most difficult part.
Did having to trade Anquan Boldin because of salary cap reasons really hit you hard?
It did and more so, because in order to create cap room, we had to ask him to take a reduction. In [Paul] Kruger and [Dannell] Ellerbe's situations, they were unrestricted free agents. To clean up our salary cap every year, it's the ones that you have to release as opposed to the ones that are unrestricted. Those will always be the toughest ones.
Is it tough to balance looking into the future rather than pulling out all the stops to keep a Super Bowl-winning team together?
No, honestly, that's what makes it easy. This is as simple as your family budget. There's a way to keep things rolling. There's a way to do it: it's putting it all on the credit card. That is the one thing that we as an executive group all agree, that you want to take this heat in the offseason. Though it seems dramatic, it is no different than the last two years. We are staring at four compensatory [draft] picks because we made the same tough decisions last year.
Do you sympathize with the fans who see so many key players leaving and wonder if the team is rebuilding?
I don't want to sound cold. I sympathize with it as much as I've heard the same thing every year at this time. Sympathy, it's like no. If they say we are rebuilding and I told an expansion franchise that you were going to start rebuilding with Marshal Yanda, Dennis Pitta, Ray Rice, Torrey Smith, Joe Flacco, Terrell Suggs, Haloti Ngata, Lardarius Webb, Courtney Upshaw and Jimmy Smith … if you talk about the losses, it sounds like a lot. If you look at what's left and fill in around it, it really isn't any different than we've had the last few years and we've been able to regroup and build a playoff-caliber team in every one of those years.
So expectations on this team shouldn't change?
Right. You lose a Ben Grubbs and somehow or another, you find a guy like [Kelechi Osemele] in the second round and by the end of the year, he was looking like he could be a top offensive guard in this league and I'm not so sure he can't play tackle with his size. … I think [pundits] predicted that it would be a down year this year, didn't they?, after we lost to New England. It has the same feeling. I think we're still in the top 12 in all their projections, so I don't really [care] if we're second or we're 12th because they obviously don't know what they are doing or they would have picked us first last year. If it's a down year and we're in the top 12 to win the Super Bowl, I'll take it.
Where are things at with free agent safety Ed Reed and would it be tough to lose Reed and Ray Lewis the same offseason?
I don't think the same offseason matters much. I don't think losing Ed Reed next year would hurt any worse. We are in a certain salary cap predicament, we're making commitments to young guys in their second contracts and like Anquan, Ed will found out what the market is and he'll communicate to [General Manager Ozzie Newsome] whether he's willing to come back for Ozzie's number or whether he'll get more on the open market, and if the difference is enough that Ed is willing to go to another city at this stage of his career.