Eisenberg: Fracas Ends Debate on Flacco's Passion

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(The upset of the year is that no video has surfaced. I mean, there is video of everything on the Internet, video of squirrels water skiing, video of babies flying planes, but no video of something that happened in an NFL stadium with thousands of fans watching? Come on, people!)

Anyway, it seems Mason became upset about a pass and confronted Flacco, who took umbrage and said something back. The exchange became heated and teammates had to intervene.

In youth baseball, which I coached for years, a fight on the bench would not be good. Feelings would get hurt and I would have to deal with it during the players' postgame cookie snack.

But the NFL is populated by driven, competitive, sometimes highly-strung adult athletes getting paid a lot of money. Feelings getting hurt are about as consequential as the uniform color schemes that teams elect to wear from week to week.

Bench spats are routine in the pros. Sports history is full of teams that have feuded their way to titles. And that's not going to happen here, anyway. The last thing anyone needs to worry about is the chemistry between Flacco and Mason. They've been hooking up on pass completions for three years. Flacco recently referred to Mason as "my guy." (No doubt causing T.J. Houshmandzadeh to groan.) Their bond is strong, irreparable.

This was just Mason being Mason. He plays hard. He plays hurt. He gets emotional. He vents. He occasionally draws a penalty for it. He finds motivation in it. The whole Le'Ron McClain spitting incident originated with Mason getting upset about the Dolphins' Channing Crowder calling him "old," causing Mason to fire back and ratchet up the on-field heat.

The Ravens tolerate Mason's outbursts because he always cools off and gets back to catching passes. He's a pro's pro.

This time, he drew Flacco's ire instead of a penalty.

The fact that the third-year quarterback came back at the 14-year veteran should end the ridiculous debate about whether Flacco plays with enough passion. He might have a modest, "aw, shucks" public persona, but there is a lot going on behind that exterior. He has opinions about things, some surely pointed, but just chooses not to share them. He has a huge reservoir of self-confidence, unfailingly believing he is the best guy for the job. He also has a mean competitive streak, plenty of fire. Think he yawned his way through that three-touchdown rally in Atlanta?

At first, as a youngster on a veteran team, he was understandably uncomfortable in the spotlight a quarterback inevitably draws. But he is warming to the role, beginning to assert himself, exhibiting leadership. He understood that his "Jersey Shore" haircut would build camaraderie, and he gets the impact of the quarterback never ducking a question after a game. Everyone in the locker room, including some superstars, has to be more accountable.

He came back at Mason Sunday because he has become comfortable enough as a leader to stand up and not take that kind of guff from anyone. It was evidence of his growing maturity, and the Ravens stand to benefit. Soon enough, this is going to be his team.

John Eisenberg *covers the Ravens for Comcast SportsNet Baltimore. He worked in the newspaper business for 28 years as a sports columnist, with much of that time coming at the Baltimore Sun. While working for the Sun, Eisenberg spent time covering the Ravens, among other teams and events, including the Super Bowl, Final Four, World Series and Olympics. Eisenberg is also the author of seven sports-themed books.*

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