NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - The Baltimore Ravens will fly into New Orleans on Monday to join Super Bowl rivals the San Francisco 49ers as the week-long build-up to America’s biggest and most celebrated game gets fully under way.
The Harbaugh brothers, 49ers coach Jim and Ravens boss John, have five straight days of media conferences ahead of them, including a joint session on Friday as the NFL and an insatiable sports media takes full advantage of the fascination with the pair.
The 49ers jetted the 1,900 miles from San Francisco to the ‘Big Easy’ on Sunday with their coach insisting that they were going to attempt to prepare themselves as if it were just another game rather than the most hyped event in U.S. sport.
“We try to make it like a normal week. We are in the city starting Monday like it is the week leading up to a Sunday game, that’s our plan,” said Jim Harbaugh on arrival.
“Our team enjoys the practice, the meetings and especially the competition. We will be gearing up for the competition of a championship game,” he added.
His brother, John, said his aim for the Ravens was to keep the focus firmly on the work at hand.
“You better be improving right up to the last breath you take. That is the number one thing. The other thing is it is about football. It’s not about anything other than that, and we try to keep it simple, keep that focus on where it belongs and keep it about the important things,” he said.
Both teams are staying in hotels in central New Orleans which is expected to have a full Mardi Gras atmosphere as game time draws closer.
The 49ers, one of American football’s most successful franchises, will be making their first appearance in the Super Bowl in 18 years.
They have never lost an NFL title game and if they maintain their perfect record they will tie the Pittsburgh Steelers’ record of six championships.
The Niners have second year Colin Kaepernick making just his 10th professional start at quarterback after replacing Alex Smith midway through the season.
Baltimore, riding high on a wave of emotion from linebacker Ray Lewis who is heading into retirement, upset the New England Patriots to reach the Super Bowl for just the second time, thanks to some inspired play from quarterback Joe Flacco.
The Ravens were established two years after San Francisco’s last Super Bowl triumph and won their solitary title game beating the New York Giants at the end of the 2000 season.
Reporting By Simon Evans, Editing by Gene Cherry