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Column: Super Bowl brothers like no others

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Column: Super Bowl brothers like no others

NEW ORLEANS (AP) John Harbaugh had just finished answering the masked man in front of him when a caped crusader from a children's network swooped in to ask how he really felt about his brother.

``I think that's a very provocative question from Nickelodeon,'' the Ravens coach said, not bothering to hide a smile. ``I'm a little disappointed because I've spent a lot of time watching your network with my daughter over the years.''

Silly stuff at media day for the Super Bowl. Nothing new about that, even if the humor has, by now, grown staler than a day-old French Quarter beignet.

There were no superheroes around younger brother Jim, while he grudgingly held court a short time earlier at a podium on the 43-yard-line of the Superdome. Probably too busy exploring the inner thoughts of Randy Moss or discussing tattoos with Colin Kaepernick.

Or maybe they just knew better than to get the San Francisco coach too wound up. Happened in Detroit last year, if you remember, with a postgame handshake.

The guy who probably charts what he's going to have for breakfast a week ahead of time had his talking points ready for this ordeal. Fidgeting constantly as he sat on the podium, Jim Harbaugh did his best to entertain like his older brother, but it just wasn't going to happen.

``I could make something up,'' he said in response to one question. ``But I'd be making it up. What do you want me to say and we can save you some time and put it right in your story.''

That the Harbaugh siblings are a big story line in this Super Bowl isn't a surprise. They'll be across the sidelines from each other Sunday in the first brotherly coaching confrontation in 47 Super Bowls.

The odds of that happening? About 225-1 if you listen to John; impossible to quantify if you're his younger brother.

``I can add. I can subtract. I can do division and I can multiply. But now you're starting to step in a realm where I get challenged mathematically,'' Jim said. ``Maybe like lightning striking?''

Whatever the odds, brother versus brother makes this a Super Bowl like no other. A sibling rivalry played out on one of the biggest stages in sports, and this time the loser doesn't have to mow the front lawn.

The father they learned so much from about coaching and life will be in the stands watching along with their mother, Jackie. She tends to get upset at referees when calls don't go the family's way, but with a son running each team there is no one to root against in this game.

They're both the same, yet they're both so different. Jim is so intense he often looks like he is about to explode - and occasionally does. John can be so engaging - he got on a media conference call with his parents last week and asked them why they liked his younger brother better than him.

And while Jim acted as if he couldn't wait for his 60 minutes to be up Tuesday, John talked past his allotted time, answering questions with enthusiasm until a team official finally pulled him away. He campaigned for the late Ravens owner Art Modell to be voted in the Hall of Fame, talked about his daughter learning Japanese, and joked about how his parents always did like Jim best.

``I think even I liked Jim more than me growing up,'' he said. ``I wouldn't be surprised if they did.''

The 49ers coach, meanwhile, likes to hold things so close to the vest that he feigned ignorance when asked if he would see his brother in a social setting this week. John, though, let the family secret out, saying there were tentative plans to get together Wednesday night for what figures to be a quiet dinner.

``I can't imagine what we would be able to talk about,'' John said. ``What are you having? I don't know. What are you having? It might not get past the menu.''

They could discuss the kind of things everyone discusses about their little brother. In Jim's case, that would be the umbrage he took at a media member referring to the string around his neck as a necklace, or maybe his appearance in the 1990s sitcom ``Saved by the Bell'' while he was a quarterback with the Indianapolis Colts.

``They asked me to come on and deliver a positive message to the youth,'' Jim said with a laugh. ``And for that I've been scorned and humiliated.''

The big brother stuff isn't quite as funny because it's hard even for Jim to make fun of John. How could he when John said he was sure he would be looking across the field at his brother during the game and thinking about their lives together and how they got to this point.

``There's a lot of commercial time'' during the game, John said. ``There will be some time for personal reflection, certainly.''

They grew up as sons of a football coach, and they're now in an elite place every football coach aspires to be. ``Enthusiasm unknown to mankind'' was one of Jack Harbaugh's favorite sayings while they were growing up, and they've now got some sayings of their own.

The brother thing fits into it so well, in fact, that Jim paraphrased Shakespeare twice when talking about it.

``That's my brother on the other side,'' he said. ``I love him and care about him very much. But they're also my brothers on the sidelines for he who sheds his blood today shall be my brother.''

Slogans won't win football games, though, and someone will lose this one. It's not a prospect either relishes, but a reality they both accept.

They're football coaches, after all. Just like dad.

``We both desperately want to win,'' Jim said. ``But we understand the other side of that.''

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Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlberg(at)ap.org orhttp://twitter.com/timdahlberg

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Ravens cut Justin Bethel, lose Pernell McPhee likely for season

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Ravens cut Justin Bethel, lose Pernell McPhee likely for season

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Just a day after a hard-fought win in Seattle, the Ravens have two roster spots to fill on defense.

The Ravens released special teams standout Justin Bethel on Monday, and coach John Harbaugh announced that Pernell McPhee is likely out for the season with a torn tricep.

Bethel was released after the Titans released Brent Urban last week.

The reason for Bethel's release was that Urban was due to give the Ravens a compensatory fourth-round pick. He signed a one-year deal in the offseason with the Titans as he left the Ravens. 

But Urban, who signed with Chicago on Monday, failed to impress in Tennessee and was released before the Week 10 compensatory deadline. Meaning, the Ravens would have lost the fourth-round pick they were scheduled to receive for John Brown's departure were it not for Bethel's release.

Bethel had six special teams tackles this season and was arguably the Ravens' best special teams player that doesn't snap or kick.

"Justin Bethel unfortunately had to be released due to a funky rule that the NFL has with these compensatory picks," Harbaugh said. "A judgement has to be made in terms of for the future as well. That's tough for us. I told him I think he's the best special teams player in the NFL, and he's playing that way."

Additionally, McPhee will likely be out for the season with a torn tricep. McPhee had three sacks and 19 total tackles in seven games for the Ravens this season.

"Pernell McPhee, it looks like he has a torn tricep," Harbaugh said. "If he has a torn tricep which I believe he does, that'll proclude the rest of the season." 

The Ravens have Aaron Adeoye, a rookie outside linebacker, on the practice squad should they wish to promote someone from within. Otherwise, they'll have to look through the free agent market or poach from another practice squad.

The NFL trade deadline is next Tuesday. 

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Watch the moment Lamar Jackson told John Harbaugh to go for it on fourth down

Watch the moment Lamar Jackson told John Harbaugh to go for it on fourth down

With the game tied late in the third quarter and the Ravens facing a fourth-and-2 from the Seattle eight-yard line, Baltimore had a decision to make.

Initially, the Ravens sent out kicker Justin Tucker to attempt a chip-shot field goal. But as quarterback Lamar Jackson trotted off the sidelines, head coach John Harbaugh had a question for him.

"Do you want to go for that?" the head coach asked his second-year quarterback.

Jackson didn't hesitate. He responded enthusiastically, telling Harbaugh, "Hell yeah, Coach. Let's go for it!"

He then turned to his teammates, asking them, "Do you want to go for it? Let's go!"

Baltimore called a timeout and dialed up a brilliant play-call on the decisive down. Lined up in a heavy, three tight end formation, Jackson took a direct snap eight yards, not just getting the first down but also finding the end zone to give the Ravens the lead.

The touchdown would put the Ravens ahead for good, as they left Seattle with an impressive, 30-16 road victory.

 At 5-2, Baltimore is sitting comfortably in first place in the AFC North, as they have a well-timed bye week before playing host to the undefeated Patriots in two weeks.

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