Bayless Accuses Flacco Of 'Flaunting' His Money
When quarterback Joe Flacco stepped in front of the media Monday to kick off the 2013 Ravens training camp, he was essentially asked the same question five times, just phrased in different ways.
How has life changed after becoming Super Bowl MVP and getting a new $120 million contract? Does he feel any more pressure after signing his new contract? What can he do for an encore? How can he build off last year? Pressure, pressure, pressure.
All the questions implied the same thing –* *expectations are higher than ever and there's potential he could stumble.
Journalists likely kept asking the same question because Flacco wasn't giving headline-worthy quotes.
Finally another pressure question came – if he feels more or less of it to perform this year – and Flacco gave the quote of the afternoon.
"I don't know. I just really don't know," Flacco first started out. "I think if we didn't win, you all would still be saying that we suck, and if we did [win], you all would still say the same – well, I don't know about you guys here [in Baltimore] – but a lot of people [would]. I don't think it really matters either way. All we can do is go out there and keep winning – just like we've been doing every year we've been here – and not really worry about what people say or what our expectations are and what the pressure is going to be. Who really cares?"
He continued: "I can't really complain at this point. We won last year*, *I have a lot of money [laughter] – or I'm going to get a lot of money – and we're going to win football games. That's the way it is around here. That's what we're going to get used to and that's what we want to be used to, is winning football games. We're not going to apologize for acting like a good football team. Our expectations are high, and we don't care if that comes with pressure or it's not pressure – whatever it is. We expect to win."
It was an honest, good answer. Regardless of the MVP and contract, his critics are always there and he will always be expected to win. There's pressure either way, but the trophy and check make life easier.
But the buzz-worthy sound bite became: "We won last year*, *I have a lot of money – or I'm going to get a lot of money – and we're going to win football games."
Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith picked it up as debate fodder on ESPN's "First Take."
Bayless, who is part*entertainer, part sports analyst and has never been a Flacco *believer, accused the six-year veteran of "flaunting" his contract.
"I can't say that I blame Joe Flacco for basically flaunting all the money he's about to be paid right now," Bayless said. "To the victor goes the spoils. He did it, man. He played sensationally throughout the playoffs, but I'm here to say that I don't think Joe Flacco is going to be flaunting his money about mid-season because I think that Flacco and what's left of his Ravens are in for a rough ride."
This is the same Flacco that went to a McDonald's drive-through right after he signed his record-breaking contract. The same Flacco that rode a free airport bus after signing the contract. The same Flacco that took an offseason vacation in his own backyard to a New Jersey beach.
Needless to say, Bayless doesn't think Flacco will succeed in 2013.
"This is tough for me to say, Stephen A., because you know how much I respect Ozzie [Newsome, General Manager] … I'm sorry Ozzie, you bet the ranch on Joe Fluke-o and I think he'll turn back into Joe Fluke-o at some point this year … Talk big now Joe, because you won't be able to talk big later."
Cue Terrell Suggs' advice on what Flacco can do when his critics speak up:
"He doesn't have to do any talking, all he has to do is flash his ring," Suggs said yesterday.
Ravens Repeating Without Lewis Is Like Pats Repeating Without Brady?
Sitting in the Ravens lobby at the Under Armour Performance center, ESPN's Sal Paolantonio stood by the fireplace looking at a giant painting of late owner Art Modell and a Johnny Unitas statue. It's also the place the two Vince Lombardi Trophies are on display.
"I think it's the best franchise in American sports," Paolantonio told WNST while surrounded by all the symbols of greatness.
Paolantonio supported his opinion by talking about how the Ravens do things the right way from Owner Steve Bisciotti to Newsome, the "intellectually curious" John Harbaugh, Flacco, all the way down to the Public Relations department who treats him with "respect and dignity."
Even with the immense admiration he holds for the franchise, Paolantonio put in perspective how difficult it would be for the Ravens to repeat as Super Bowl champions without Ray Lewis on the field.
"I think it's pretty clear that since the first day that they drafted Ray Lewis in their first draft, the inside linebacker position has defined this football team," Paolantonio said. "Ray Lewis has defined this football team through his practice habits, through his intelligence, through his trials and tribulations, through his passion, through his spirituality, through his Hall of Fame playing ability.
"So how do you replace all the elements of what Ray Lewis brought to this team and how he defined this football team? I think the answer is very simple. You don't do it with one person."
Jameel McClain can't replace Lewis. Neither can Arthur Brown or Daryl Smith. Suggs can't replace his leadership. Neither can Flacco or Ray Rice. Harbaugh won't do it on his own either. It has to be all of them together.
"These are major, major confrontations and challenges. And I don't know if you can [repeat]. It has never been done before," Paolantonio said.
"It's like saying the Patriots would like to repeat without Tom Brady. It's like say the Broncos would repeat without John Elway. It's very difficult to do. Having said that, does that mean the Ravens shouldn't play the season? No. Of course they should play the season. And will they be extremely competitive? Yes, they will be competitive."
Harbaugh's "Dismissive" And "Fantastic" Quote
Speaking of replacing Lewis …
One reporter asked Harbaugh Monday if he's thought about who will be the next face and voice of the franchise.
"I've given it no thought whatsoever," Harbaugh responded. "It's a pretty general question. Who was the voice and face of the franchise?"
"Ray Lewis," the reporter replied.
"Oh, OK," Harbaugh said. "Well, that's your interpretation."
NFL.com's Marc Sessler loved how the Ravens head coach answered the question.
"So dismissive. So fantastic. And Harbaugh deserves credit," Sessler wrote. "He has done a strong job leading the Ravens out of last season's glory into an active, roster-altering offseason.
"In March, it was in vogue to label Baltimore a wandering ship. Veterans were purged, and, for a spell, it was unclear how the talent would be restocked. Then General Manager Ozzie Newsome rolled up his sleeves, patched holes, put together another solid draft and -- BANG -- the Ravens arguably are better on defense than one season ago. With or without Ray Ray."
- Trevor Pryce and Adalius Thomas combined as the most prolific single-season pass-rush tandem that the Ravens have ever had, notching 24 sacks in 2006. But Pryce believe Suggs and Elvis Dumervil will break that record, predicting 25 sacks between the two. [The Baltimore Sun]
- "Based on projections by Football Outsiders, the number-crunchers believe there is a good chance the Ravens will be contenders again in 2013," wrote Matt Vensel. "Football Outsiders calculated that the Ravens have a 14.4 percent chance of getting back to the Super Bowl, the sixth-best odds in the NFL. Only the New England Patriots, Denver Broncos, Green Bay Packers, Seattle Seahawks and – a gasp! – the Washington Redskins have better odds." [The Baltimore Sun]
- Jets Head Coach and former Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan: "I think the greatest motivator of men I have ever been around is Ray Lewis, because Ray Lewis motivated me as a coach. His message was always clear, always about the brotherhood of his team, and that's who I am." [The MMQB]
- Mel Kiper ranked Torrey Smith at No. 21 on his list of top players under the age of 25. "By this time next year Smith will be 25, but we'll also know if he's capable of taking on the role of a true No. 1 wideout for a good team, or if he's better as a complementary target," Kiper wrote. "Currently, he's the best receiving option the Ravens have, so if his production doesn't spike you can expect them to be looking for help in 2014." [ESPN]
- @RavensInsider: Ravens linebacker Albert McClellan has recovered well from offseason shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum [Twitter]
- @ChrisCanty99:*Reported to camp this a.m. Got the conditioning test outta the way. Now it's time to get back to ball *#ravensnation #thatpurplestuff #champcamp [Twitter]
- Whoops, USA Today. … A fan tweeted this picture of Torrey Smith in a copy of the newspaper saying, "dude, this is a horrible pic of you." Smith's reply: "that's not me." [Twitter]