OWINGS MILLS – Sporting his new wedding ring and a bolder attitude much different than his usually stoic personality, Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco delivered a message to his legion of critics.
Used for target practice by national pundits who questioned his leadership, ability in the clutch and whether he has the fire to run a football team, Flacco lashed out Wednesday upon reporting for training camp at the Ravens’ training complex. Just like the Ravens are changing with tight end Todd Heap and wide receiver Derrick Mason, about to be cut from the roster today, so is Flacco’s outward mentality.
"I’m think I’m pretty damn good," Flacco said. "And I don’t need to go out and tell everybody I play this game to be the best and it doesn’t matter what other people say. I don’t need to go out and tell everybody that and show it on every given day, every play, every Sunday and do all that stuff. I go out there and I play.
"You can think what you want about me. The bottom line is: I’m still going to think the way I think about myself and I feel pretty good about myself no matter what you say. I would like some more people than myself to think good about me, but they never do, they never do."
Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley said that Flacco will never win a Super Bowl in this lifetime.
Even after Flacco’s comments hit the airwaves, NFL Network analyst Jamie Dukes continued to rip the quarterback for his playoff track record. Flacco is 4-3 in the postseason, but his statistics are better during the regular season. Dukes has previously questioned Flacco’s work ethic even though the former first-round draft pick is known for working long hours and studying a lot of film.
And Cincinnati Bengals middle linebacker Dhani Jones said Flacco simply makes too many mistakes, accusing him of caving under the harassment of defenders.
"We’ve had a good team the last three years and I think I’ve gotten better each year and played pretty darn good, so I don’t understand it," Flacco said. "People are going to say what they’re going to say. We’ve just got to go out there and win football games, continue to win football games really, because we’ve won football games every year here."
This isn’t the first time that Flacco has displayed his willingness to speak out.
He was furious when the Ravens fired quarterbacks coach Jim Zorn after he stuck up for him.
In three NFL seasons, Flacco has completed 62 percent of his throws for 10,206 yards, 60 touchdowns and 34 interceptions for an 87.9 passer rating. Last season, he passed for a career-high 3,622 yards and 25 touchdowns.
"The world we live in today, there’s usually one good quarterback at the end of the year and 31 other not-good ones," Flacco said. "My goal is to be that one good one at the end of the year."
"When you’re good, people are scared of you," Mason told the Times this summer. "Honestly, that’s what I’ve seen. When people realize the potential that you have, they get very, very scared and then you see them scrambling to say bad things about the guy.
"Joe doesn’t care. He really doesn’t. For the Woodleys and the Dhani Jones and the rest of them, you see there aren’t no head coaches or general manager and no smart players saying Joe can’t play. The last thing you want to do is wake up a sleeping giant. Whether he says it or not, they’ve given him added fuel."
Flacco, 26, got married to his high school sweetheart, Dana, this summer.
"It was a lot of fun," Flacco said. "It was a really good day."
Now, he has to build new connections with his receivers with Mason and Heap off the team.
"Definitely shocked to hear about it, those guys are both friends of mine and both good targets of mine on the field," Flacco said. "So, I feel for them and I hope we can do everything we can to get those guys back. I had no idea anything like that was going to happen. I wasn’t even really thinking about that. I hope we can go out there and operate no matter what."
"If those guys aren’t there, it’s because we are confident with the guys that we have. I would say if they’re not there, we know we have a great group of guys. If they are there, then we’re only going to benefit from that."
Instead of throwing to Mason and Heap, Flacco’s targets, at least for now, are expected to become tight end Ed Dickson and rookie wide receiver Torrey Smith.
"I’m sure at first there will be an initial shock without those guys being out there," Flacco said. "I hope we can go out there and operate no matter what."
Now, Flacco is intent on leading the Ravens past the threshold of a few rounds into the playoffs. He’s thinking much bigger. To get to the Super Bowl, the Ravens will need him to play bigger.
"I want the ball to be put in my hands, I want to be in control," Flacco said. "I want to be in position to lose football games. I’ve always said that. I want it to be on me. In order to do that, you got to have trust in me, and I think we’re there."
Reach staff writer Aaron Wilson at 410-857-7896 or [email protected].