Ravens head athletic trainer Mark Smith said Wednesday, "Joe [Flacco] has done everything we've asked and everything he should be doing to be ready to play this season. He hasn't missed a session. He comes early and stays late."
Even in big snowstorms?
"Joe was here. There were only a few of us in the building."
You remember the giant snowstorm that fell in Baltimore and through the East Coast corridor on the weekend of Jan. 23. It shut down most businesses and area schools for the following week. (We measured 32 inches on our fields at the Under Armour Performance Center.)
After his workout the day before the storm, Flacco took his wife and three young sons to visit relatives in New Jersey. "We beat the storm out of here," Flacco said. But, Joe still wanted to come back to Baltimore for his rehab session on that Monday morning.
"The highways were good by Sunday, and it wasn't a bad drive back [to Baltimore]. When we got to our house, our driveway wasn't cleared. There was too much snow for the equipment for the guy who usually does it," Flacco said on Wednesday, the day he signed his contract extension.
"I wasn't sure how I was going to get the kids in the house, especially with my knee. Luckily, I saw a guy plowing down the street and made a deal with him to clear the drive. We stayed in the car while he did it."
That evening, our head trainer received a text from Joe. "He wanted to know if we'd be there in the morning," Smith said.
The Ravens had already informed employees that our building was closed on that Monday. However, Smith and another trainer arrived early that day, and there was Joe ready to go for his usual four-to-five-hour rehab work.
That's our Joe. And, for those looking for some fodder for what has now become a national joke line: "Is Joe Flacco elite?," here's some ammo:
- Joe had the most wins (72) in the history of the NFL for a quarterback in his first seven seasons
- Joe has the fourth-most wins (85) in the NFL since 2008, trailing three likely Hall of Famers: Tom Brady (94), Peyton Manning (88) and Aaron Rodgers (87)
- Prior to his knee injury last November, Joe started 122-consecutive games, the fifth-longest streak for a quarterback in NFL history
- Joe's 10 playoff victories are the most in the NFL since '08, two more than Brady and three more than Rodgers and Russell Wilson
- Joe's seven road playoff wins are the most ever by an NFL QB
- Our Super Bowl MVP has directed 24 end-of-game drives that earned Ravens victories
- Joe's 104.1 playoff QB rating since 2010 is the best of any QB with at least three postseason starts
And, by the way, the humble Flacco is the first one to say, "It's not me. It's Harbs, it's my teammates, and it's having that opportunity."
All true, but as we indicated with his new contract, it's a lot about the cool, calm, collected Joe Flacco.
No Tackling And The Ivy League
The Ivy League has received much national media attention for its announcement on Wednesday that tackling would not be allowed at football practices. Dartmouth coach Buddy Teevens had eliminated full contact practices in 2010, and now all of those elite schools will follow suit.
It's a good idea, and, frankly, the Ivy League might be behind the NFL.
I asked Flacco about "live" practices, and he said, "We hardly do any, and I can't remember me doing full contact in a while."
John Harbaugh told me: "We go 'live' about 15 to 20 plays during training camp. That's it for the year. We do it with our young players before the first game so they get an idea of the speed and impact of what it's like on gameday. It's usually short-yardage and goal-line situations."
Through the years, when we've had guests at practices, the common observations are: "I thought there would be more hitting." And, "I thought they'd be in full uniform."
In fact, by NFL rules, teams are only allowed 14 practices per season in full pads.
AFC North Has The Most Veteran Head Coaches
We know how tough the AFC North is. With three teams – the Ravens, Steelers and Bengals – regularly going to the playoffs, the division leads the NFL with nine wild-card appearances since 2008. The three other AFC divisions produced just seven combined in the same span.
ESPN.com's Jeremy Fowler revealed a different way of measuring the strength of the AFC North earlier this week. He counted the days each of the NFL head coaches had been at their jobs and noted the stability in our division is "eye-opening."
"Considering 13 of 32 NFL head coaches enter their first or second offseason at their current stops, the combined 29 years in the Lewis-Tomlin-Harbaugh tree should be appreciated. These three beat up on each other yearly and still survive," Fowler wrote.
It's not even close. The three AFC North bosses totaled 11,085 days on the job – Marvin Lewis with 4,795, Mike Tomlin with 3,326 and Harbs with 2,964. The AFC East is second with 6,703 days, but 5,877 of those belong to Bill Belichick.
They Said What?
Loved these two quotes this week:
Our assistant GM Eric DeCosta told this to ESPN.com's Jamison Hensley at the NFL Combine:
"Everybody feels the tremendous pressure [to hit early and often in this year's draft]. But, we see the opportunity to get back and get better very quickly."
We all vote for that.
And, this from Cliff Brown, long-time NFL reporter now with Comcast SportsNet:
"Rank Joe Flacco anywhere you want on the quarterback totem pole. But don't forget these facts: He's a Super Bowl MVP. He has 10 career playoff wins, more than any active quarterback except Tom Brady (22), Peyton Manning (14) and Ben Roethlisberger (11). He plays the best football in the clutch. Does Tony Romo? Does Matt Ryan? Does Andy Dalton? People are reluctant to admit this now, but when the Ravens beat the 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII, many people thought 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick was headed for a better career than Flacco. How's that working out?"
Playing quarterback in the NFL is the hardest position in all of team sports. It is chaotic, crazed at times and dependent on split-second decision making.
We've seen it often in Joe's first eight seasons: the more wild the circumstance, the better his production. His cool, calm demeanor is awesome in the toughest situations.
Talk with you soon,