When I decided to count down the 22 most important players in Sunday’s Super Bowl, I didn’t imagine it was going to be all that hard. I mean, there are 44 total starters; picking half of them should be doable. Then I actually started.
Let me first explain what this list is actually supposed to represent. These aren’t the 22 best players in the Super Bowl or the 22 players I expect to make the biggest impact. This is my best attempt at figuring out which 22 players matter most, and that proved to be more difficult than I’d planned.
Even with some cheating (a few guys at similar positions are listed together, so actually there are 27 players. I'm not sorry), there are some notable omissions that I don’t feel great about. Jonathan Goodwin has been one of the best centers in football this year, but for the purposes of this list, he’s out. Not a single Ravens cornerback is listed, which isn’t to say that Corey Graham and Cary Williams won’t play a part; it’s to say that how San Francisco uses Michael Crabtree doesn’t make one side or area of the field more important than another. Dennis Pitta has been invaluable for the Ravens’ offense since Jim Caldwell took over, but I still think he’s been Joe Flacco’s third most important receiver in the playoffs. With all that in mind, here are the guys who actually did make the final cut.
Sports Illustratedis reporting that Ray Lewis took deer-antler pills to more quickly heal his torn triceps. Shortly after his injury occurred, this past October, the Ravens linebacker allegedly contacted a company called S.W.A.T.S. and got on a totally normal rehab program of hologram stickers, regenerative light therapy, negatively charged water, the aforementioned deer-antler pills, and, as a digestif, deer-antler velvet extract (a.k.a. The Ultimate Spray), which Lewis was instructed to spray under his tongue. Aside from making the linebacker sound like a practicing Druid, the deer-antler stuff reportedly contains IGF-1, a banned substance in the NFL.
What the S.I. investigation only hints at is a larger story that Grantland's Triangle Investigates team has been pursuing for months: the wanton abuse of powders, elixirs, potions, and emulsions from wild-animal skeletons that's rampant among Baltimore Ravens defensive players. Prepare to have your world turned upside down.