OWINGS MILLS – Joe Flacco is within striking distance of several passing records as the Baltimore Ravens’ quarterback prepares for Sunday’s regular-season finale against the Oakland Raiders.
Flacco has the highest passer rating (89.5) and completion percentage (63.3) in franchise history ahead of the single-season marks established by former Baltimore quarterbacks Vinny Testaverde (88.7 in 1996) and Steve McNair (83.0 in 2006.).
“Joe’s playing well,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “We’re going to chase better with Joe and with all of our guys. Joe is a weapon and he’s a threat, but he’s going to have to play his best football this week.”
Plus, Flacco is 21 completions behind Testaverde’s record of 325 completions set during the Ravens’ inaugural season. He trails Testaverde for yards gained per pass attempt, 7.31 to 7.61.
“I don’t even know about those things, really,” Flacco said. “Probably at the end of the season, I’ll look back and maybe be able to take a look at those things, but the most important thing is just going out there and winning football games.
“You can look at that stuff all you want, but if we go out and win this football game then we’ll be in the playoffs for the second straight year and give ourselves a shot to win the Super Bowl. That’s kind of the thing I’m focusing on right now.”
For the season, Flacco has completed 304 of 480 passes for 3,511 yards, 21 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.
He’ll have a tough task this weekend: avoiding Raiders star cornerback Nmandi Asomugha.
“He’s big, he’s long, he can run,” Flacco said. “He can’t be beaten.. He can be beaten, but teams stay away from him a little bit. So, I think that’s part of why he doesn’t really have many interceptions or things like that.
“We’ll attack him smartly. I think what makes him good is he reads routes well. He’s long, he’s big, he’s physical, he’s fast. He’s got a lot of good attributes.”
INJURY UPDATE: Free safety Ed Reed returned to practice on a limited basis as he works his way back from a slight groin tear.
Also returning to practice: linebackers Terrell Suggs (thigh) and Tavares Gooden (groin) and defensive end Trevor Pryce (illness).
However, wide receiver Derrick Mason (knee) didn’t practice again.
Offensive tackle Oniel Cousins (knee) was upgraded to full participation in practice, but is wearing a brace on his left knee.
Participating fully again: linebacker Jarret Johnson (back, knee) and cornerback Cary Williams (thigh).
The Ravens removed offensive tackle Jared Gaither (foot, lower back) from the injury report after listing him on Wednesday as participating fully.
Five players didn’t practice for the Raiders, including defensive end Greg Ellis (knee), running back Justin Fargus (knee), quarterback Bruce Gradkowski (sprained knee), cornerback Chris Johnson (hamstring) and offensive tackle Langston Walker (ankle).
Safety Tyvon Branch (hip) was limited as well as former University of Maryland wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey (foot).
Defensive tackle Gerard Warren (shoulder) participated fully.
STATUS UP IN THE AIR: Depending upon the outcome of slow negotiations between the league and the NFL Players Association regarding a new collective bargaining agreement, 212 players will be restricted free agents instead of holding unrestricted status.
At this rate, an uncapped year in 2010 appears likely.
And 10 Ravens are scheduled to become restricted free agents if not for a sudden turn in the talks.
That includes offensive tackles Adam Terry and Tony Moll, tight end Quinn Sypniewski, wide receivers Mark Clayton and Demetrius Williams, offensive guard-center Chris Chester, cornerback Fabian Washington, punter Sam Koch, kicker Billy Cundiff and defensive end Dwan Edwards.
Typically, the Ravens retain the majority of their restricted free agents with the lowest tender possible.
QUICK HITS: The Ravens expect the Raiders to start quarterback Charlie Frye. That’s a logical conclusion considering that Gradkowski is injured and the team has no faith anymore in former starter JaMarcus Russell. … Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison offered praise for two defensive backs: cornerback Domonique Foxworth and safety Tom Zbikowski. “I’m proud of Fox,” he said. “He just stays on course and he just keeps trying to do it the way we want him to do it. .. Zibby is doing what he’s supposed to do and trying to do it as well as he can on every snap. That’s the beauty of it. I’ve known him a long time, he’s always going to go out there and give you his very, very best. He’s a tough guy. I’m proud of him. He’s really, really kept playing and done the right things.” … Mattison expressed concern about University of Florida coach Urban Meyer, who is going to take a leave of absence due to health problems. “I didn’t talk to him since it happened, but I’ve talked to him quite a bit and we’re very close,” Mattison said. “I feel bad for him, but you know it’s funny. My wife and I talked about this a long time ago when we were with Urban. The only thing you ever worried about with Urban was that his health was going to go because he works so hard. The man is a tireless worker. He reminds me of Coach Harbaugh in the fact that he’s not going to let any coach or any player do more than he does. I just hope his health is fine.” .. The Ravens have been impressed with the development of undrafted rookie linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, who has started the past few games with Gooden out. “When you look at the tape and you see a guy going in there making plays when he’s supposed to make plays and then the same thing with the guy that he is competing with or at the same position is nicked up, then you say, ‘OK, let’s go with the healthy one.’ Ellerbe’s another good example of a guy that just keeps getting better as he goes in there.” … Running back Ray Rice’s wallet is about to take a hit. He owes the offensive line a fancy steak dinner after making it to the Pro Bowl. "Without those guys, none of this could be done," Rice said. "I’m sure me and [fullback] Le’Ron [McClain] are going to have to do something for those guys very soon. I offered to take them out to dinner after I hit 1,000 yards, but I left that in Matt Birk’s hands, and he has not got the guys together. So he can’t say that’s on me. Those guys don’t want cheeseburgers. They wants steaks. I told them whenever they’re ready, we’ll put something together. For the amount of yards I’ve got, that bill really doesn’t mean anything. It will be all right. It’s a good treat."
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.