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John Harbaugh, Joe Flacco Returning To Their Roots

Posted Sep 12, 2012

John Harbaugh used to coach in Philadelphia and Joe Flacco grew up just outside it.

A couple of Philly boys will return home on Sunday.

Head Coach John Harbaugh cut his teeth in the NFL during a decade as Philadelphia’s special teams and defensive backs coach. Quarterback Joe Flacco grew up in Audubon, N.J., just five miles outside the city and Lincoln Financial Field.

Both went back to Philadelphia last year for a preseason game, and beat the Eagles in M&T Bank Stadium in 2008. But there will likely be a different feeling this Sunday at 1 p.m.

“It is special,” Harbaugh said. “It really doesn’t hit you until you get there.  Then, all of a sudden, your emotions flood up on you. That happened in the preseason last year when we played there. I assume this year will be the same, or even more intense.”

Harbaugh said he’ll take notice when he drives up to the same old parking lot, when he sees a lot of familiar faces from mentor and Eagles Head Coach Andy Reid to the security people inside the tunnel.

Harbaugh hasn’t talked to Reid as much recently, a natural consequence as the two teams prepare to face each other. It happened last year with Harbaugh’s brother, Jim, too when the 49ers were on the schedule.

But Harbaugh still holds Reid – the longest-tenured head coach in the league at 14 years – in extremely high regard. Harbaugh said Reid’s had a “huge influence” on his career, as he has on a number of NFL coaches who have branched out into the league.

“I’ve got a lot of respect for Andy; I’ve got a lot of love for his family,” Harbaugh said.

Flacco, on the other hand, doesn’t have a strong connection to the Eagles. Despite growing up watching them every Sunday, Flacco wasn’t doing the E-A-G-L-E-S chant. He was more a fan of quarterbacks than a specific team.

The same can’t be said for Flacco’s childhood friends, however.

“I grew up around all Eagles fans, and they’re a pretty passionate group,” Flacco said with a grin after Monday night’s game. “Who knows who my buddies will be routing for – hopefully they’ll have a little compassion for [me].”

Flacco has never fully displayed what he can do in his hometown. While at the University of Pittsburgh, the Panthers played Temple in Philadelphia a couple of times but Flacco was still a backup. He played just two series in last year’s preseason game.

“This is a real game,” Flacco said. “It should be a lot of fun.”

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