OWINGS MILLS – Following an extremely light practice Tuesday where Joe Flacco appeared to have a lot of stiffness due to a right hip contusion that has also affected his quadriceps, the Baltimore Ravens quarterback said he’s encouraged that it’s healing properly.
“I feel really good,” Flacco said. “The most important thing is I woke up Monday feeling better than I did Sunday. After a game, anytime that happens you’re feeling really good. I feel like it’s all starting to work itself out.”
Flacco had a visible hitch whenever he was jogging or dropping back to pass, but didn’t seem to be in any pain.
Despite being gimpy, Flacco appears to be on target for Saturday night’s AFC divisional playoff game against the Indianapolis Colts.
Tight end Todd Heap’s status isn’t quite as clear, though.
After suffering a back stinger during the final minutes of the Ravens’ 33-14 wild-card win over the New England Patriots, Heap was able to jog at practice and catch a few passes. However, his back remains tight.
“Obviously not far removed from the game,” Heap said. “I’m just trying to get healthy and get back to where I need to be. Yeah, I’m optimistic about this weekend.
“There’s not too much that’s going to keep me out of the playoff game. I’m looking forward to it and I’m sure I’ll be ready to go. I want to see if I can get as many reps as possible and practice as much as I can.”
The Ravens aren’t required to file an official injury report until today, but coach John Harbaugh was upbeat about Flacco and Heap’s progress.
“I thought they both looked good,” he said. “It was not a fast practice, obviously, but they were fine.”
Wide receiver Mark Clayton said he’s not concerned about Flacco.
“Joe’s fine,” Clayton said. “I don’t ever worry about Joe. He’ll be good to go, moving around and making plays.”
Meanwhile, long snapper Matt Katula’s tendinitis in his right elbow seems to be improving.
He had some slightly errant snaps against the Patriots, but not to the extent that he had misfired in previous games against the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Oakland Raiders.
“Yeah, Matt seemed like he was fine,” Harbaugh said. “He seemed like he was really feeling better, so he did a nice job.”
UNCONCERNED: Days removed from completing just 4 of 10 passes for a career-low 34 yards against the Patriots for no touchdowns and one interception, Flacco said he’s not worried about his statistics.
“Anytime you go up 24-0, I don’t think your numbers are going to be too impressive,” Flacco said. “It doesn’t matter what your numbers look like in the playoffs as long as you win the football game. Anytime you throw 10 passes, it’s a crapshoot what your numbers are going to be.
“The bottom line is it doesn’t matter. I feel like I went out there and executed the game plan and hit a couple of passes when I needed to. I think that’s what you have to look at. I think I’m a lot happier guy than Aaron Rodgers is right now.”
The way Flacco was deployed against New England, largely handing off and allowing a bruising running game to shoulder the workload, has drawn comparisons to how quarterback Trent Dilfer managed the game during the Ravens’ Super Bowl XXXV run.
“I really don’t care, I think I’ve proven what I can do,” Flacco said. “The bottom line is when you’re in the playoffs, it’s about winning. If we keep winning, then I’m going to be a happy man.”
HOOSIER TIES: Harbaugh has a lot of roots in Indiana.
His brother, former Ravens quarterback Jim Harbaugh, is in the Colts’ Ring of Honor as the quarterback known as “Captain Comeback.”
He was an assistant coach at Indiana University under Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron.
“That’s pretty cool when you see your brother’s name up there in that kind of a setting,” Harbaugh said of Jim Harbaugh’s presence in the Ring of Honor. “We’re very appreciative as a family of the Colts and what they did and Jim had a great run there. He’s a Raven, too, but his string there in Indianapolis is pretty meaningful.”
Plus, his brother-in-law is Indiana basketball coach Tom Crean.
“He’s building from the ground up, building that foundation,” Harbaugh said. “The Hoosiers are going to be a champion soon. There’s no doubt about it. It’s going to happen. Tommy Crean is a great coach. In all seriousness, Gary Williams, I’ve talked to Gary a lot about this.”
The son of former Western Michigan and Western Kentucky coach Jack Harbaugh, Harbaugh said he feels like coaching was always in his blood.
“We got raised around sports,” he said. “What’s a better way to grow up? I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”
Jim Harbaugh won’t be attending Saturday’s game after becoming a fixture on the sidelines at several games this season.
“I don’t think he’s going to make it,” Harbaugh said. “I think he’s got a strategically planned recruiting weekend.”
TOUGH MATCHUP: The versatility of Colts tight end Dallas Clark presents a daunting task for the Ravens’ defense.
He scored a touchdown against Baltimore during the first meeting earlier this season, a 17-15 Colts victory.
Lining up at wide receiver and tight end, Clark was named to the Pro Bowl as he hauled in a staggering 100 catches for 1,106 yards and 10 touchdowns.
“I don’t know if there’s a better pass-receiving tight end in the league,” Harbaugh said. “They play him as a wide receiver and they play him as a tight end, which is pretty amazing. It’s great flexibility for their offense.”
QUICK HITS: The Colts have never won a playoff game when coming off a first-round bye. “If that matters, then I guess there’s an edge there somewhere,” Harbaugh said. “Tell me if it matters. I don’t know. I think what matters is how the teams play.” … Pro Bowl runner Ray Rice’s 83-yard touchdown run against the Patriots ranks as the second-longest run in NFL history behind Fred Taylor’s 90-yard touchdown run against the Miami Dolphins on January of 2000 while playing for the Jacksonville Jaguars. … CBS analyst and former NFL offensive lineman Dan Dierdorf spoke highly of the Ravens during a conference call. “Baltimore is the team I just don’t want to see in the playoffs if I’m the opponent," said Dierdorf, who’s calling Saturday’s game. “They just bring such a physical style. Baltimore is finding themselves right where they were last year. They had to go play the No. 1 seed in the AFC last year, the team with the best record in Tennessee and knocked them out of it. I think Baltimore goes to Indianapolis with a lot of confidence." … The Ravens are 6-2 all-time in road playoff games. That ranks atop the NFL over the Carolina Panthers (4-2), Patriots (7-9) and Steelers (7-9) and the Dallas Cowboys (9-13). … Harbaugh was complimentary of Chris Carr’s work since taking over as a starter at cornerback. Carr was signed during the offseason to a two-year, $5 million contract “He’s been a good corner,” he said. “He’s really versatile as a corner, which I guess in his role makes him so valuable. That’s why a lot of teams were interested in him in the offseason. For our fans to be able to see him playing as well as he’s playing is a good feeling for us because that’s what we saw when we recruited him and signed him up here last spring.”… Flacco will celebrate his 25th birthday Saturday in Indianapolis. Harbaugh said he doesn’t have any elaborate gift planned. “Let’s see, we’ll be in Indy, we won’t be traveling, I’m going to get him a bus ticket to the stadium,” he quipped. “How about that?”
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.