Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco used the word "boneheaded" when talking about the two ghastly interceptions he threw in Baltimore's last meeting with the Tennessee Titans.
Both of them occurred when Flacco was rolling to his right on a sunny day at M&T Bank Stadium. The rookie threw no touchdowns and had a lowly passer rating of 50.4, as the Ravens were defeated 13-10.
But after 17 consecutive starts, Flacco has matured far beyond the player he was three months ago. Those two picks were part of the process.
"A couple of those [throws] in that game, I don't even know what I was thinking - kind of just bonehead throws," he said with self-deprecating honesty. "[I] kind of gave them one real easy, but you definitely learn from it. There are times where you've just got to throw the ball out of bounds and live for the next down. That's what I took out of those."
Although it was a rough day for Flacco, as a third interception was actually reversed when linebacker David Thornton could not maintain possession before falling out of bounds, he did have somewhat of a successful showing, completing 18 of 27 passes for 153 yards and not taking a sack.
But it was also part of a part of a five-game span where Flacco had seven interceptions and only one touchdown.
According to offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, Flacco's early-season troubles were all part of the process in developing the first-round draft pick.
"Our approach with quarterbacks has always been let them play," Cameron noted. "Prepare them, then let them play. Then when they come off the field, we don't start telling them what happened. [We say], 'All right, what did you see? Tell me what you think happened.' Sometimes, they know exactly what happened. Sometimes, they say, 'I'm not sure what happened there.' And then you just let their mind work and let their mind grow.
"That's what you're seeing out of him - a guy that's growing every snap. He's playing a very difficult position, and he's just going to continue to grow."
Flacco certainly did.
Through the last 11 games of the year, Flacco recorded 13 touchdowns and five interceptions, compiling a 90.2 passer rating. The Ravens, in turn, rolled to a 9-2 record during that stretch.
The former University of Delaware signal-caller refuses to look back on past performances to contemplate his progress, however. Heading into the second-round of the playoffs with a hungry Titans team doesn't give him any time to do so.
"That's behind us," he said. "It doesn't matter how we got here. We're here now, and we're just ready to go out there and play. It doesn't matter what happened the first time we played."
Heap, Reed Hurting, But Pushing Through
Tight end Todd Heap has been held out of practice all week with a back injury, but he is confident that he can play on Saturday.
"I'll be ready," he said without elaborating.
Head coach John Harbaugh also thought that the former Pro Bowler would be available against the Titans. Heap walked gingerly around the locker room on Tuesday, but seemed to move easier as the week wore on.
Joining Heap out of practice was safety Ed Reed, who was originally just battling a knee injury, and then was listed to have an illness on the Thursday injury report.
In addition, kicker Matt Stover (ankle), defensive tackle Justin Bannan (foot), linebacker Justin Johnson (calf), wideout Derrick Mason (shoulder), and cornerback Fabian Washington (neck) and Samari Rolle (thigh) were all limited in Thursday's practice.
But despite the mounting injuries, the Ravens have continually fought to play each weekend, especially with their playoff lives on the line.
"To us, as a team, we've been dealing with it all year, and we know it's our strength," Reed said. "We know why we do this. We know what we're destined to do. We're just going to continue to work through it. That's the best thing about these guys around here.
"We're not complacent about where we're at because of what we've been through and what we're going through physically. So, we just focus on the training room and just try to get better."
The Ravens will release a final Injury Report with the out/doubtful/questionable/probable status listed on Friday, even though there is no formal practice for that travel day.
Kokinis in Play for Browns
With the Ravens' AFC North rival Cleveland Browns hiring Eric Mangini as their new head coach days after he was fired as head coach of the New York Jets, reports have surfaced that George Kokinis, Baltimore's director of pro personnel, is a candidate for their open general manager position.
Kokinis would fill the position vacated by former Browns general manager and senior vice president - and former Ravens director of player personnel - Phil Savage.
Kokinis, who began his career in 1991 with the Browns, played a major part in assembling the depth the Ravens have up and down their roster this year.
"If George Kokinis were to go there, it'd be tough, it'd be a disappointment," Harbaugh said. "Then again, it'd be an opportunity for George.
"We've got a lot of respect for George. George does a great job. He's had a huge impact on our team so far this year, everybody knows that. It will be interesting to see how that goes."
Art Snubbed Again
Former Ravens owner Art Modell made it to the cut of 25 for the list of 2009 Hall of Fame candidates, but he was left off the final group of 15.
Between four and seven potential inductees will be elected by the Hall's 44-member board of selectors on Jan. 31, the day before the Super Bowl.
Modell purchased the Browns in 1961 and brought the franchise to Baltimore after three decades.
During his NFL tenure, Modell was a critical part of the group that created the NFL-AFL merger, was chairman of the Owners Labor Committee, which negotiated the league's first players' collective bargaining agreement, helped establish NFL Films and assisted in brokering the deal with ABC to launch the original Monday Night Football.
"There's no question in our mind that Art Modell should be in the Hall of Fame," stated Harbaugh. "If you look back at his history and his record, and what he accomplished for the NFL as the NFL was becoming what it is today, nobody made a bigger contribution.
"All the great players who made the contribution are in the Hall of Fame. Here's a guy that made a contribution on about four or five fronts that were just critical to the development of this league and what it is being today. It's no question, he should definitely be in the Hall of Fame."
Harbaugh explained that the defensive communication radio has worked better for the Ravens in the second half of the season after previously encountering problems. "Early in the season it was a little bit spotty," he said. "I think we had some technical issues with it that seem to be worked out. We're expecting it to go smooth in Tennessee. We don't expect to have any problems with it." Safety Jim Leonhard wears the lone radio-equipped helmet for Baltimore after Reed and linebacker Ray Lewis declined after testing it. … The Ravens have only allowed four rushing touchdowns this year. … Baltimore's second-ranked defense has seen its share of bone-crunching hits this year, something that excites defensive coordinator Rex Ryan. "No question about that. I love it," Ryan said. "That's what you're all about. I think a big hit can change the momentum of a game faster than a turnover, so we're fortunate we have some guys who can deliver some big hits." … The weather forecast for Saturday in Nashville is 46 degrees with clouds. It is of no consequence to offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. "Really, you can't set yourself up one way or the other," Cameron commented. "You plan for all conditions. But we try to build this system to play in all conditions, especially in this division. The players that we play with are guys that are comfortable playing in any kind of conditions."