How does Flacco follow Super Bowl MVP performance?
BALTIMORE - This time a year ago, Joe Flacco still was viewed as a quarterback who couldn't get his team to the Super Bowl. He still was playing for a big contract after betting on himself by declining the Baltimore Ravens' initial offers.
He still was waiting for the Ravens to put their full faith in his right arm and open up their offense.
What a difference a postseason makes.
The quarterback from Audubon, Camden County, enters the 2013 regular season with a Lombardi Trophy on his growing resumé, a nine-figure contract, and the respect of the football world after taking home the Super Bowl MVP award. The Ravens begin the season Thursday night in Denver.
Which running back is better?
|Alfred Morris (1,613 rushing yards in 2012)|
|LeSean McCoy (840)|
|Total votes = 1549|
Many things have changed in Baltimore during the last 12 months, especially since the Super Bowl, but those close to the 28-year-old quarterback say that Flacco isn't one of them.
As an encore, Flacco, who racked up team accomplishments since his rookie season in 2008, wants to take his individual game to the next level. It won't be easy with increased expectations and the loss of two of his favorite receivers. But if anyone can shrug off all this pressure, it's Flacco.
"I don't know if there is - in terms of demeanor - anyone better than Joe to handle something like this," said CBS analyst Rich Gannon, who - like Flacco - is a Delaware alumnus. "He's so even-keeled. Things just kind of roll off his shoulders. At the same time, I think he's extremely motivated."
Flacco isn't exactly thrilled about the attention that came with his new status and the media requests that have been piling up. But in his eyes, it beats the alternative.
"When I think about [the last year], I kind of just think, 'Wow. That was awesome. Let's go do it again.' That would be a great way to start each offseason," Flacco said. "But there wasn't a ton of times where I sat back and thought about it, to be honest with you. I did it. I enjoyed it. Then it was just about getting back to what we normally do."
Flacco coolly threw a record-tying 11 touchdown passes in the postseason and was named Super Bowl MVP when the Ravens beat the San Francisco 49ers.
At his postgame party, he revealed that his wife, Dana, was pregnant with their second child. Flacco then jetted to Florida to cruise around in a convertible with Mickey Mouse at Walt Disney World. Later that day, he appeared on the Late Show with David Letterman.
Back home in Audubon, there was talk about a parade or some other kind of public celebration for Flacco, but the quarterback quickly put the kibosh on that. But when Flacco, as he does every year, showed up at the Audubon High School baseball booster club dinner, the locals packed the restaurant to get a glimpse of their hometown hero.
Four weeks after leading the Ravens to the Lombardi Trophy, Flacco became, at the time, the highest-paid player in NFL history. And after signing a six-year, $120.6 million contract that will set him up for life, Flacco stopped for chicken McNuggets at a McDonald's in Aberdeen, Md., on his way back to New Jersey. Though Flacco did buy a house from former Ravens center Matt Birk, his idea of splurging was supersizing his value meal.
Flacco has won more games in his first five seasons than any other quarterback. With him under center, the Ravens have never missed the playoffs. And he has been to three AFC championship games and one Super Bowl.
In 2012, Flacco established career highs with 317 completions and 3,817 passing yards. His 22 touchdown passes were the second-highest total of his career, and his 10 interceptions tied a career low.
If Flacco is to play at a similar level this fall, he will have to do it without two favorite targets. Wide receiver Anquan Boldin was traded in the offseason, and tight end Dennis Pitta suffered a hip injury early in training camp that is expected to keep him out most of the season.
"It's going to be a total group effort, just like it always is . . .," Flacco said. "What fun would it be if we were perfect in everything that we did? Football is not about that."