Teammate Says Flacco Chasing 'Perfection'
He's still Joe Cool, but teammate Steve Smith Sr. sees something different about franchise quarterback Joe Flacco this year.
An example came after Saturday's Eagles contest when Flacco was rather harsh on himself for throwing two interceptions. The second one particularly bugged Flacco. He called it a "terrible" throw.
"He's hard on himself this year," Smith told ESPN's Ashley Fox. "It's like he's seeking perfection.
"It's kind of, he's not saying he's seeking perfection, but you see it. Any small throw that he feels like is off, he's on himself. He's saying, 'My bad.'"
Flacco said more than "my bad" Saturday night. He was tough on himself after surgically pinpointing what went wrong with both picks. Both were good decisions, he said, and he would throw them again. It was his execution that was off, and he let it be known exactly how far off it was.
"We had a guy wide open with Marlon [Brown]. He's a 6-foot-5 wide receiver and I overthrew him by five feet," Flacco said about the second interception. "You just can't have that."
After Flacco let a deep ball sail past Smith in a Philadelphia practice last week, he screamed an expletive, clapped his hands together, huddled with his team, and then threw a completion to Smith on the next play.
Forget about the 4,000-yard mark. That has never been Flacco's end goal. Sure he'd welcome it, but he understands it will come if other things fall into place first. The same thing goes for the contract negotiations scheduled for next offseason. He's just "not worried" about it.
That's because these days, Flacco has a better understanding of what's important in life and football.
He has matured over the years. Flacco turned 30 in January, and he and his wife, Dana, have three young children. You can see a picture of the Ravens' First Family on the September cover of Chesapeake Family below.
Parenthood has changed his perspective.
"I think he's gotten to the point every year he continues to grow, seven years now, where he discerns between what really is important and what's really not important better than ever," Head Coach John Harbaugh told Fox. "Some things he didn't think were important before he's learned that they really are, and some things he thought were [important] before he knows now are not. He takes that maturity."
Harbaugh can recall a couple of tough practices early in training camp this year when he heard rumblings of a couple players saying, "I can't believe" this or that.
In stepped Flacco.
"Joe's like, 'Hey man, it's training camp. It's supposed to be tough,' and that's the last thing we heard about it," Harbaugh said. "He's a leader."
Flacco admits he's changed, too. Part of it is because there are so many young targets looking to him as an example. It's on his shoulders to help develop them into playmakers.
The average age of the top-three tight ends is 22. They have a combined one NFL start between them. The wide receiver corps has 36-year-old Smith, but after that, there are several youngsters.
"I think the thing is I'm excited about some of the young talent we have, and because we have young guys, you have to be a little bit different," Flacco said. "We need to get these guys ready to play early on. We're going to have to rely on them.
"So, because of that, I think you have to be a little bit different so you can get those guys confident, get them to work and get them ready to play and do the best you can to make sure they know what they're doing and that they're confident doing it."
O-Line Injuries Won't Affect Flacco, Starters' Playing Time
Flacco may not have two of his normal starters protecting him from an onslaught of Redskins defenders this weekend.
He could be without starting left guard Kelechi Osemele (Achilles injury), who has practiced once since the first preseason game. Left tackle Eugene Monroe hasn't practiced since the Eagles contest last weekend, when he had ice on his arm after the starters were pulled from the game.
The starters aren't the only ones affected. The team practiced with only 11 offensive linemen Wednesday, as reserves James Hurst and Ryan Jensen were also sidelined.
That doesn't mean Harbaugh is going to play Flacco or the offensive starters any less.
The Baltimore Sun's Jon Meoli says their playing time won't be affected. The third preseason game is widely-considered the dress rehearsal for the starters, and they usually play an entire half.
"I think if something happens in the game, it possibly could [have an effect], but the way we're going into the game, to start the game, we're comfortable with the guys we have playing on the starting offensive line," Harbaugh told reporters Wednesday. "They'll do a great job."
Offensive Coordinator Marc Trestman was asked whether he'll have enough bodies to get through the contest against Washington. At first he confidently replied in the affirmative. Then he half-joked that divine intervention may be needed.
"Lord willing, we'll have enough to play," Trestman said with a smile. "And I say that with great sincerity and hope that we'll get enough guys that we can play. But we have enough, and we're excited for them."
Will The Real Ravens Returner Please Stand Up?
The Ravens announced that cornerback Asa Jackson will get the first crack at both kick and punt returner this weekend. However, Special Teams Coordinator and Associate Head Coach Jerry Rosburg admitted he still wants someone to win the job.
Brian Bower of Russell Street Report says Jackson is getting the opportunity by default.
"In an open competition with limited game time opportunities, Jackson, who has struggled for much of training camp at the cornerback position, has provided the best results thus far," wrote Bower. "With Michael Campanaro again nursing what's been described as a 'soft tissue' injury and undrafted rookie DeAndre Carter's blunders on both kick return attempts, it appears as if it's Jackson's job to lose."
Meanwhile cornerback Lardarius Webb has a nagging hamstring injury, and the Ravens may not want to risk putting Steve Smith Sr. out there. But both are the Ravens' "aces in the hole" if nothing works out.
The other option would be to scour the market as teams make roster cuts to 75 and 53 over the next few weeks.
"Perhaps, the player isn't even on the roster yet," wrote Bower. "For now though, all eyes will be on Jackson to provide a spark in the return game, otherwise he could be released for a replacement."
He'll need a chance first. The Ravens haven't had a ton of chances to return kicks as teams have regularly booted balls deep in the end zone for touchbacks.
"It makes no sense to me," Rosburg said following Tuesday's practice. "These young men, they come to your camp and try to make a team, and you kick it out of the end zone and they don't show what they can do. It's not fair to the players, in my view. That's why we kick it to the goal line. Let the guys who came here try to make a National Football League team."
Big Darren Waller Intriguing Ravens
Not even Darren Waller believed in his own potential to make it in the NFL.
In fact, he attributes that lack of faith to why he allowed himself to goof off in college and violate team rules by testing positive for marijuana.
"I never saw myself as legit," Waller told The Sun's Childs Walker. "I was just enjoying where I was, enjoying the college experience too much. But when I finally realized I could do things other people can't do, that's when I started focusing in. So, I guess better late than never."
When he was drafted in the sixth round last April, the 6-foot-6, 240-pound Waller was considered a long-term project. Part of that was because he didn't get many looks in Georgia Tech's run-heavy offense. Despite comparisons to former big-bodied Yellow Jackets turned Pro Bowl receivers in Demaryius Thomas and Calvin Johnson (Detroit Lions), Waller didn't put up the type of numbers that inspired confidence that he could be a surefire starter in the league.
But after a standout training camp, and continued improvement, there's now a legitimate chance Waller could make the team and contribute immediately.
Flacco told fans Tuesday night that Waller is a "monster."
"A guy like him gives you the ability to throw against little guys, and put the ball up here and there, which is what I like to do," Flacco said. "I think he is going to be huge for us."
Added Trestman: "He's very detailed and detailed-oriented in everything he does in the classroom. Again, the competition and being around Steve [Smith Sr.] and being around Marlon [Brown] and Kamar [Aiken] and the guys that have played in this league, I think has just pushed him to grow, and he has. He's playing faster. His route-running is cleaner and more detailed. He has become a little more physical."