Extra Points: Week of distractions finally coming to an end

Winning the Super Bowl is about far more than football.

That's why persevering on the NFL's biggest stage means so much to one's legacy, be it a coach, quarterback or franchise.

There are big games at every level in this game. Ask a high school kid shooting for a state championship or a CFL star going for the Grey Cup if they feel pressure.

The Super Bowl, however, is on a different plane. In fact for some, football seems like the least of their concerns in the week leading up to the big one.

Here in New Orleans, Baltimore coach John Harbaugh probably never imagined he would be answering questions about Ray Lewis' fondness for deer antler spray or his quarterback's inappropriate use of the word retarded.

His brother Jim, meanwhile, didn't fare all that much better after the 49ers' Chris Culliver firmly inserted foot in mouth with some homophobic comments on comedian Artie Lange's radio show.

Super Bowl week is full of pitfalls like that with thousands of media descending on the host city to ask questions that more often than not have nothing to do with the upcoming game.

It's a game of gotcha and far too many "got got" this week.

The lucid of us know Joe Flacco wasn't insulting developmentally disabled people when he said the NFL was retarded for scheduling Super Bowl XLVIII in North Jersey. He was simply giving his opinion as a New Jersey native and one that a lot of us share by the way.

That said Flacco said it inartfully and since we live in a politically correct climate devoid of nuance, he was forced to apologize for something that wasn't all that serious.

Culliver's miscue was far dicier but anyone who has ever listened to Lange on the Howard Stern Show knows what his act is about. It's a laid back, testosterone-fueled atmosphere, looking for laughs even if they are at the expense of others. Culliver got caught up in that.

Yahoo! Sports actually came out with its annual tracking list for the daily search habits of its audience on Friday to find out exactly what is fueling the interest in Sunday's big game.

If you guessed Beyonce, chicken wings and all the "scandals" give yourself a gold star.

It you were leaning toward the pistol offense, San Francisco's linebackers or the Ravens' fondness for throwing it deep, put on the dunce cap.

In a non-tabloid world perhaps the big story on Friday would have been Lewis finishing the last full-scale practice session of his career as the Ravens concluded workouts at the New Orleans Saints' facility.

Lewis, of course, is retiring after Sunday's Super Bowl with 17 often brilliant seasons under his belt.

Pro Football Writers Association pool reporter Peter King described Lewis' mood as serious for much of his final real practice, although there were few reminders this was it for the face of the Baltimore franchise.

The Ravens, who play music at most of their practice sessions, did use the first two songs played Friday as a tribute to the controversial Lewis: "Spiritual," a gospel number by Donald Lawrence and Company, and "Hot in Herre" by Nelly, the song the Ravens played when Lewis was introduced at home games back in the Charm City.

Lewis wore the No. 1 on his jersey, a Friday game-week tradition in Baltimore dating back to 2001 with running back Ray Rice taking No. 52 as another homage to Lewis.

When the 65-minute session ended, Lewis walked off the Saints' practice field talking with left tackle and fellow University of Miami alum Bryant McKinnie with no fanfare, just business.

"I didn't even think of it," said John Harbaugh before boarding the bus for the 15-minute trip back to Baltimore's team hotel in downtown New Orleans. "That's not where Ray's head is either, I'm sure. He's thinking about the game. We all are."

Finally it was back to football, at least for some.