NEW ORLEANS -- The talk of the city doesn't center on Ray Lewis, at least not among the Ravens.
It’s Emily Jones, the mother of Pro Bowl kick returner Jacoby Jones.
She cooked for the Ravens, including coaches and staff, when they arrived here Monday. The reviews were overwhelmingly positive Tuesday as some players noted they have to watch their intake going into their Super Bowl game Sunday vs. the San Francisco 49ers.
Even Oprah doesn't throw around the word "amazing" this much.
Linebacker Jameel McClain isn't playing because of a spine contusion, but the Philadelphia native mixed up his words when explaining what he ate. “What is it? Jumbo and gumbalaya?”
That’s gumbo and jambalaya. She also cooked macaroni and cheese, stuffed bell peppers, potato salad, bread pudding, among other items.
Defensive end Pernell McPhee smiles, goes into a big stretch and then rubs his belly as he recounts the experience: “I'm not worried about my weight," he said. "Two big plates and went to sleep.”
Then McPhee continued eating toffee-coated macadamia nuts that were covered in milk chocolate. There were 12 empty slots on the tray, all courtesy of his appetite. “I ate too many,” McPhee said as he handed someone the box so he could stop himself.
“I think I put on 10 pounds eating her food,” said defensive end Arthur Jones. “I have some more gumbo in the refrigerator in my room.”
While Lewis, 37, keeps emphasizing the need for the Ravens to stay focused, they were in a jolly mood during Media Day at the Superdome. So was safety Ed Reed, 34, who is from New Orleans but in his 11th season.
The Ravens have to be careful to not have too much fun. It's a "business trip," Lewis said.
“We got treadmills and stuff at the hotel,” linebacker Albert McClellan said. “Some people have been hitting the treadmill. A lot of people just run it off in practice. We should be good.”
Jacoby Jones plans on eating some other unique dishes that are common on the bayou: crawfish, frog legs, ‘coon, possum, squirrel and rabbit.
“She didn't bring in all that,” Jones said of his mother's dishes. “That would've been too much cooking and cleaning and scraping. And who’s going to kill the things?”
The Ravens have four days left for their second Super Bowl appearance in franchise history. But they have a lot of players who were non-plussed at the sampling the more risky cuisines later in the week.
“Really?” Arthur Jones, an Endicott, N.Y. native, said of Jacoby's intentions to eat from the wild. “I think I might have to get on that. I've had possum before. I haven’t had squirrel but I’m willing to try it. My grandma is from Alabama and one day we ran over a possum and we barbecued it up. I didn't know what it was. It was definitely delicious.”
Rookie receiver Deonte Thompson vouched for the tastiness, too.
“I eat possum and rabbit. I’m a country boy. I eat it all. We catch rabbit from I’m from. We chase ‘em and fry it,” he said. “When I was a kid, all of us from The Muck. Belle Glade (Fla.). We country boys.”
Linebacker Albert McClellan is from Lewis’ hometown of Lakeland, Fla. He has eaten a lot, but a bad experience with possum turned him off for good.
“I’ll eat squirrel. Possum? I had it before and I don’t like it too much. It just isn't me,” McClellan said. “My grandmother had it in the refrigerator and I opened the refrigerator and it was there smiling at me. I just lost all taste for it. It was cooked in the pot and boom, it was there with the head still on it. Not a good look. The taste buds were gone.”
Linebacker Dannell Ellerbe was disgusted by the question. “I might eat the squirrel but I’m not touching a possum,” he said. “You've seen a possum?”
McClain was having none of it. When asked about eating squirrel, possum or another delicacy, pickled pig lips, he only would respond with “absolutely not.”
“This where they eat alligator, too?” McClain asked. “Never had it. You know I’m from Philly. I can’t go back home and admit I (ate that).”
It’s not a problem for key special-teams player Anthony Allen, who is from Tampa.
“I’m from Florida so I've had turtle and possum before. You put the turtle in spaghetti. You take the turtle out the shell, clean it, chop it up, put it in a pot,” Allen said. “It tastes like sausage. It looks like ground beef. Put it in some spaghetti, it’s amazing.”
Even though offensive lineman Jah Reid can’t play because of a toe injury, the Haines City, Fla., native is a believer that Jacoby's mother can work magic even with questionable foods.
“I don’t think I've had possum. I think possums carry diseases and stuff, don’t they?” said Reid, who paused to give it some thought. “But if his mom cooks it, I’m going to eat it because I've had her food and it’s amazing. They’re still walking around. They both seem fine. Why not?”