Let's start with a corollary that is obvious but occasionally needs restating so everyone understands: The Ravens pay Joe Flacco a whole lot of money because he is their most valuable and essential player, the one on whom everything rests.
Their high-dollar arrangement assumes certain performance levels, and my two cents, Flaccohas consistently met or exceeded those assumptions. Yes, he has experienced some disappointments and the debate about his elitism has literally become a joke, but he has won a Super Bowl and a bunch of other games, directed a ton of comebacks, and bottom line, his winning record speaks for itself.
But a team enters an expensive arrangementwith a player, or should, with the understanding that the opposition also can play, the world isn't perfect and some days are going to be better than others for their high-priced guy. It's called real life.
What a team really wants for its money, or should, is for the player to be a pro's pro, ready to go on Sundays and "all in" the rest of the time, the goal being to put his team in the best possible position to succeed if and when other things do go well.
Flacco has soared over that bar for years, of course; he had never missed a start until he suffered a major knee injury last Nov. 22, underwent surgery and missed the final six games of the Ravens' disappointing 2015 season.
The timing wasn't perfect because his contract was due for a re-up, but the Ravens went ahead and gave him a huge extension anyway. I'm sure some people blinked. It was a lot of money for a guy with a knee under reconstruction.
The Ravens did it because they had faith in Flacco, and months later, without putting on a uniform or throwing a pass, he has already justified their faith.
His recovery and rehab have gone so well that Flacco told reporters last month he would be "ready to go" when training camp opens.
"I said two months ago if I had to go play in the Super Bowl today, I'd be out there playing init," he stated on June 16, slightly less than seven months removed from his injury.
His comment was the best moment of the offseason, hands down, as least in terms of the Ravens' prospects for 2016. They desperately need Flacco healthy again if they're going to experience any measure of a bounce-back season, and it appears he has delivered.
This shouldn't be underestimated. There are no shortcuts in a major knee rehab, just months of hard, sometimes painful days. I wasn't around to witness any of it, but I do know Flacco has been a constant, even daily presence at the Under Armour Performance Center.
Right there, that's why he makes – and deserves – the big bucks. Talk about "all in." Flacco has continued to prepare for his comeback campaign in 2016 during these quiet, dead-of-summer days leading up to training camp – at least,that's what he told reporters he would do. Hey, as he once said, he's not a big "vacation guy"anyway.
"I'm going to be here around the building and continue to work out," he said last month. "There are a couple guys in the building – a couple guys are going to be around here, and we will be able to throw together, and I can ramp that part of it up a little bit more just so my arm (will) go into camp ready to go and I don't have to fight any issues with that. I think that will be the biggest thing, just getting my arm to the point where it is really in shape to take on the load of training camp and the year."
I'm sure Flacco and the Ravens will be cautious once he returns to the field, but when your quarterback is more worried about his arm than his knee that underwent surgery, that's the sign of someone who tackled his injury with the highest level of concern and professionalism.
That's why the Ravens pay Flacco what they do.