- Jamison Hensley, ESPN Staff Writer
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WASHINGTON -- Before the Baltimore Ravens handed a purple No. 44 jersey to President Barack Obama, the 44th president, coach John Harbaugh delivered a celebratory message on the South Lawn of the White House.
"I want you to know, we have plans to be back next year," Harbaugh said.
This was one of the few times Wednesday that the defending Super Bowl champions looked ahead to the future. This week is about reminiscing for a team that went on an unlikely championship run and got ripped apart like no other Super Bowl team. Three months after parting ways with seven starters, the Ravens came together for a visit to the White House on Wednesday and the ring ceremony Friday.
While five former players didn't attend the White House event (Anquan Boldin, Bernard Pollard, Matt Birk, Cary Williams and Paul Kruger), Ray Lewis and Ed Reed fittingly stood side by side just a few steps to the right of Obama. This marks the first time in 12 years the two future Hall of Fame players won't be teammates. Lewis announced his retirement during the season, and Reed signed with the Houston Texans in free agency.
"You can't think about Baltimore without thinking of Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, two of the greatest defenders who ever played the game," Obama said. "Now, these two won’t be wearing purple next year. Everybody is going to have to get used to that. It’s welcome news for quarterbacks."
Wearing a purple tie and gray suit, Obama gave the Ravens a tour of the White House before delivering some playful jabs at the players:
On Ray Lewis: "Ray retired on top, coming back from a triceps injury, which I believe was caused by that dance he does."
On Ed Reed: "I will point out, by the way, that Ed is getting some gray hair, though. You’re like an old man."
On Joe Flacco, who was standing in the back row: "Good timing with that contract up. That was some good timing. Capped off one of the greatest post-seasons ever by a quarterback -- 11 touchdowns, no interceptions. I don't know about you, Joe, but I would say that qualifies as elite. And I’d say that if you keep on playing like that, you’re going to challenge (Vice President Joe) Biden for the most popular person from Delaware."