By Jerrell Richardson
The story of the Baltimore Ravens’ season, specifically the return of Ray Lewis, is remarkable. Since he announced that he was retiring, but would be back for one last run, the team has played inspired and refused to lose. The Baltimore players have admitted that this has had a part to do with them making it to the Super Bowl, and with one win away from sending Lewis off in style, Baltimore is hoping that emotion will help them gain an edge against the 49ers. The feeling the Ravens have will only aid them in reaching their goal, but if emotion is to play a role in this game, it’s on the other side of the ball. There are three players on the San Francisco roster that will not only approach this game like it’s their last, but unlike Lewis, they have yet to win it all. So even with the tidal wave of emotion that their opponent will ride into the Super Bowl, it’s the 49ers who are the hungrier team, and they will be playing for more when the two teams hit the field in Super Bowl 47.
Frank Gore Deserves (At Least ) One
No player in the NFL deserves a Super Bowl ring more than Frank Gore. In an age where a player is quick to leave a team for more money, the former Miami Hurricane has remained loyal to the 49ers organization and fan base. The relationship has not been easy for either side, as Gore has struggled with a variety of nagging injuries, forcing the team to question his long term worth, while Gore has had to deal with six straight losing seasons. In the end, the relationship has proved beneficial to both parties, as Gore has become the franchise’s all time rushing leader while having had one of the best seasons of his career. The team is now in the Super Bowl, and Gore has a chance to add an exclamation point to an already illustrious and ongoing career. It would be a travesty if the lead rusher for a team that measures success in Super Bowl victories is never able to get one.
Justin Smith Also Deserves One
The player who can argue that he deserves a ring just as much as Gore is Justin Smith. The defensive end spent the first seven years of his career in Cincinnati before catching on with the 49ers, and at the age of 33, Smith knows his clock is ticking. Like the inspiration for the Ravens, Justin Smith suffered a torn tricep and was not sure if he would be able to play at all this post season. His return has sparked his teammates and a defense that struggled while he was out. While Smith has made no comments about his future, there is the possibly that this is his last dance. He has never played in a Super Bowl, and watching from the sidelines as the regular season ended, has only added to his fire. He is not the outspoken, visible leader that Ray Lewis is, but there is no member of the 49ers, especially on the defense, that will not leave it all on the field to make sure Justin Smith gets his ring.
49ers Will Have Bigger Emotional Lift
While the Ravens have Ray Lewis to play for, the 49ers have Frank Gore and Justin Smith. There is also Randy Moss, who joins the list of players in their first Super Bowl. Moss came out of retirement for this very opportunity, and the sometimes unmotivated receiver will have no problems getting ready for this game. These three players are playing for their first title, which can’t be said for Lewis. If emotion is going to be a tool used in this game, the headlines might go to Ray Lewis and Baltimore, but the real emotion is going to be in the 49ers locker room, where they can’t afford to lose this game. Not only will the 49ers rally around their veterans, but Frank Gore, Justin Smith and Randy Moss will also be ready to play in the most important game of each of their long careers. Ray Lewis has his ring, and while this is the last time he will strap up his helmet, the hunger on the San Francisco sideline for their first should be enough to withstand whatever Ray Lewis will get from his teammates on February 3.
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Jerrell Richardson is a Bay Area native who due to a college career at San Diego State University has grown an appreciation for all things sports related in California. His heart will always remain in San Francisco though where he currently resides and covers everything from the San Francisco 49ers and Giants to the San Jose Sharks and California Bears Baseball team. His work can be found on Examiner.com.