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Calm Through the Storm


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Joe Flacco walked into the Ravens' facility Sunday afternoon and was received in the front lobby by about 10 team staffers. He was immediately whisked upstairs, where owner Steve Bisciotti and general manager Ozzie Newsome greeted him.

After a 15-minute private meeting with Bisciotti, Flacco went straight to his introductory press conference, where the media peppered him with questions for half an hour.

The rookie then sat with Head Coach John Harbaugh, Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron and Quarterbacks Coach Hue Jackson on separate occasions before leaving to conduct live interviews with three local TV networks.

And, there was the added pressure of having his mom, dad, sister, two of his brothers and girlfriend in tow through it all.

Despite a whirlwind welcome for the 23-year-old's career in Baltimore, Flacco's demeanor never wavered. He came in cool. Laid back. Calm.

For a guy that has the hopes of an owner, a coach, a team and a city riding on his first-round status, the way he handled everything was almost veteran-like.

"I'm going to go out there and play football the way I know how to play football," Flacco said when asked if he felt the pressure of his lofty expectations. "It's up to everybody else to label me as something. If I pay attention to that, all it's going to do is hurt my game. So, all I'm going to be doing is coming here, probably not hearing too much news.

"I want to be in here working hard and trying to be the best football player I can be."

It was a telling statement. After a meteoric rise up draft boards following a record-setting senior season at Division I-AA Delaware, Flacco endured months of interviews, meetings, workouts and tests, all contributing to a growing hype machine.

The look of relief showing when ESPN cameras caught Flacco answering Newsome's unexpected phone call as the Ravens traded down to the 18th pick was genuine.

Now, the wait is over. Give him a football.

"Everybody has to make an adjustment – no matter what level of college football they were playing," he said. "I think I'm just as prepared as anybody else. I have confidence in my abilities. It's not about talking about it. It's about going out there and proving it. I'm anxious to do that."

Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron has already begun the process of indoctrination. He gave Flacco a few snippets of the playbook before the former Blue Hen came to team headquarters for an official visit. Cameron was impressed with how Flacco digested "a mini version" of Baltimore's offense when the quarterback was quizzed.

Flacco was also coachable during a private workout at Delaware for Ravens representatives. Cameron and quarterbacks coach Hue Jackson challenged him to try different techniques, and Flacco responded.

"If you ask him to do something he's never done, can he pick up on it?" asked Cameron. "We have a couple of little techniques we do differently in our drops, a little dove tail technique. I've been around some guys you just kind of describe it, and then some guys can never do it. I thought it was kind of neat that he picked up on it quickly."

In addition, Flacco had been wowing everyone with his strong, accurate arm and quick release over the past year.

The coordinator thinks that knowledge of the game and athletic ability will help ease a transition to the big leagues.

"It will be important for me as the play-caller to know with whomever our quarterback is how his mind works and how he operates, so I can help him maximize how he thinks," Cameron said. "This guy, he's bright, and football makes sense to him. Football's a big part of his family, and he did very well.

"In our system, we'd like our quarterback to have nimble feet, have an explosive arm and be quick with the football," he continued later. "I actually think Joe has that."

To that point, Cameron also noted that he will be the lone voice in Flacco's ear - at least for his first season as the prospect develops.

"Hue and I have never worked together, so what we'd like to do for our quarterbacks is to make sure they hear one voice for a year," Cameron explained. "I'll be the primary voice, but Hue is an outstanding coach. He's been a coordinator, so he understands. We'll be working closely together, but I'll kind of take the lead. As Hue gets to know me better, then it will be one voice, both of us, but saying the same thing."

From what little he knows now, Flacco is eager to jump in. Nevermind the small-school pedigree, Flacco feels he can be the guy to lead the offense now. He still must separate himself from Kyle Boller and Troy Smith for the starting role, but an air of quiet confidence shows that this NFL thing isn't too big for him.

"I am anxious to get in here and start learning, and I want to get out on the field and prove that I can," he said. "It's going to be up to the coaches to make that final decision, but it's going to be up to me to prove to them that I am ready."

As he left the facility with a thick playbook under his arm, the young signal-caller knew that for the first time in a long time, it wasn't about the interviews, handshakes or even hype anymore.

Joe Flacco just wants to play. Maybe that's why he left the exact same way he arrived: cool, calm and collected.

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