Back in School


It may have been his first day with his new teammates, but rookie quarterback Joe Flacco impressed on the practice field.

During the opening session of Baltimore's mandatory minicamp, the first-round draft pick was limited to a minimal amount of snaps, but he took advantage of what he got. Flacco displayed his strong arm to the team and a contingent of media in attendance on a rainy Friday afternoon.

If there were any doubters, one only had to see him uncork a pinpoint deep ball to Mark Clayton that resulted in a touchdown.

But while Flacco may have offered a taste of what skills he can bring to the table, everyone in the Ravens' locker room, including Flacco himself, knows that one day of solid performance doesn't mean much.

"I just move on to the next play," the signal-caller said in his typically understated manner. "The last thing I'm thinking about is the play I just completed, because I know that this is a new offense for me and I'm worried about the next play and it has nothing to do with that play."

Entering a competition for the starting quarterback spot with Kyle Boller and Troy Smith, learning Cam Cameron's precise and complex offense is Flacco's biggest challenge at this point.

Both Boller and Smith have been immersed in the playbook since head coach John Harbaugh hired Cameron on Jan. 23. Flacco, on the other hand, got his copy less than two weeks ago when he arrived at Ravens headquarters on draft weekend.

Since then, the Delaware accounting major reverted back to being a full-time student. At his home in Audubon, N.J., Flacco spent most of his time doing homework with a little help from quarterbacks coach Hue Jackson.

"I was just trying to digest as much of it as I can," Flacco said. "There's only a certain amount you can actually take from looking at it by yourself. You have to have the coaches there to explain a lot of the stuff to you. I wanted to get a base down for myself so that when I came here at least I knew what they were talking about so I could interact."

And from Day 1 on a new campus, Harbaugh and Cameron insist they haven't slowed their installation to bring the rookie up to speed.

"We don't believe in spoon feeding," Harbaugh explained. "We throw it all at him, and he handled it well."

Flacco's teammates have played a large part in the learning curve. Wideout Derrick Mason was one that praised his raw skills. As the leader of the receiving corps, Mason is certainly cognizant of Flacco's exploits at his Division I-AA school, where he set career records for completions (595), attempts (938) and season records for completions (331), attempts (521), and yards (4,263).

"That's one reason why they brought him here, and he was a very smart young man in college in his decision-making and everything," Mason stated. "Hopefully, he can transfer over to this league.

"What he needs to do now is each and every day step out there - just like everybody else - each and every day, step out there to get better."

Even Smith and Boller are lending a hand, despite what should make for a fierce competition under center.

"I know I'm going to do everything I can to help out Joe," Smith said. "I was in his position last year. As a rookie, you need to look for the veterans for guidance sometimes."

Said Boller: "We're all in this together and we're going to do everything we can to lead this offense, to score a lot of points and hopefully win a lot of games."

And it's not just the offense he must learn. From the moment he stepped out into the elements, Flacco knew the speed of the game is certainly different than his time with the Blue Hens.

"I was running around trying to get used to the tempo and all that stuff, so I will get used to that and all those other things will start," he said.

At 6-foot-6, Flacco towered over the 6-foot Smith and 6-foot-3 Boller as the trio took snaps simultaneously. But at this point, all three are on the same level, a fact he takes to heart.

"I've got a lot of learning to do, and after being here for a day, I can see that," said Flacco. "It's been a lot of fun so far, and I can't wait to continue this process."

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