OWINGS MILLS – Derided by veteran free safety Ed Reed and accused of losing his composure against the Houston Texans, Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco downplayed the controversy Wednesday.
Flacco said he has spoken to the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year after initially being flummoxed by Reed criticizing him during a national radio show following the Ravens’ 20-13 victory over the Texans.
“I talked to Ed about it,” Flacco said. “It was a little funny to me. I was a little caught off guard, but it is what it is. We talked about it. It’s not really that big of a deal.
“When I first saw it, I was like, ‘What’s going on? It’s not really that big of an issue. I don’t really take things that bad. It’s Ed, it is what it is.”
Reed implied that he may have been trying to motivate Flacco, who passed for two touchdowns and no interceptions for a 97.1 quarterback rating despite being sacked five times against the Texans.
Flacco has become a frequent punching bag locally and nationally despite the Ravens (13-4) winning the AFC North title and passing for 3,610 yards, 20 touchdowns and 12 interceptions heading into Sunday’s AFC championship game against the New England Patriots.
Reed implied Wednesday during an ESPN interview that he was attempting to motivate Flacco. He wasn’t made available to local reporters.
“Always a method to my madness,” Reed said. My teammates, I think they know and understand me as a player and as a teammate. I don’t think they would take out of content what I said. If they do, it has to be motivation to prove me wrong.
“I don’t think I offended Joe in any way. I talked to him on the phone, left a message. He texted me, told me, ‘I’m cool.’ He’s cool about it. No big deal.”
Since Reed has a lot of credibility, though, Flacco may draw additional heat after a Pro Bowl defensive player and teammate ripped him.
“I think Joe was kind of rattled a little bit by that defense," Reed said during a Sirius NFL radio interview. “They had a lot of guys in the box on him. And, I mean, they were getting to him. I think a couple times he needed to get rid of the ball.
“I don’t know how much of the play-calling, he could have made audibles or anything like that, checks or whatnot, man, but it just didn’t look like he had a hold on the offense, you know, of times past. It was just kind of like they was telling him to do, throw the ball or get it here, you know, get it to certain guys. And he can’t play like that.”
Already busy this week game-planning for Patriots star quarterback Tom Brady, Ravens coach John Harbaugh took some time to meet with Reed to address his remarks.
And Harbaugh acknowledged that the timing and how Reed’s comments came across could stand for improvement.
“I understand where Ed’s heart at, and all our guys when they say things,” Harbaugh said. “We’re together all the time. We know each other. We understand where each other is coming from. I’m sure there are some things he would have liked to have said a little better.
“If you look at the whole context and hear the tone of his voice, I think the message he was trying to communicate was a good message. Obviously, things could have been [said differently], the way you read them and stuff like that, I’m sure he’s not too happy about that. I understand what he’s talking about. We know each other, we understand each other.”
Flacco continues to be a lightning rod for criticism despite winning on a consistent basis and not missing a start since being drafted in the first round four years ago out of the University of Delaware.
He has gone 44-20 in the regular season, and 5-3 in the playoffs.
“I think I’m more shocked just how people can speak about somebody who is just a flat-out winner,” middle linebacker Ray Lewis said. “There’s no one side to anything. There’s no one player that makes one team great. It takes a team effort. What Joe has come in and done for us, I told people from Day One when I first saw that kid throw a football, I said that kid is special.”
Reed also criticized the offensive line during the interview.
“We’re not worried about it, I’m sure Joe’s not, I’m sure Ed’s not,” offensive guard Marshal Yanda said. I’m sure it might’ve gotten twisted up a little bit how everybody’s trying to blow it up. Ed’s behind Joe all the way.
“Ed wouldn’t do anything to be detrimental to the team a week before we play the AFC Championship game. It’s in one ear and out the other. Not worried about it, worried about New England.”
Outside of the Ravens’ locker room, at least one NFL voice believes that what Reed said can have an impact on team chemistry.
During a conference call, Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young weighed in on the Flacco-Reed situation.
“A little different in that Ed is one of the voices in the locker room that self‑polices,” Young said. “They have a great locker room and they have guys that self‑police, so pretty substantive Ed said it. So, I think it’s going to be pretty meaningful and should put a red flag up. Because it’s from Ed, it’s not from left field and it’s not going to cause more than Joe to straighten up.
“Like, ‘hey, Ed said it, I have to deal with it, and it must have something to it or he wouldn’t have and I’d better a big boy and better play better.’ I think Joe is going to stabilize a little bit, because who wants to hear Ed Reed say something bad about you. Also, Joe will see like, ‘Hey, it’s like Ronnie Lott saying something, better deal with it.’ And I think Joe is a tough kid. He’ll figure it out.”
Lewis wasn’t the only player to stick up for Flacco.
Pro Bowl outside linebacker Terrell Suggs has been an outspoken figure in coming to Flacco’s aid.
“I don’t have to stick up for Joe, man,” Suggs said. “His reputation speaks for itself. I just say what people seem to forget sometimes. We’ve never been kind of like anybody’s favorite.
“I think he fits right in with us kind of with our persona, kind of the flashy, flamboyant persona. He’s right there in the locker room with us. We’re a different kind of group with some special cats around here.”
Flacco has obviously tired of being targeted so often for scrutiny.
The New Jersey native would prefer to get to a point where his play doesn’t require defending.
“I think that is the team we are,” Flacco said. “I wish those guys didn’t have to come to my defense on all kinds of things. I don’t really think they have to. The way things are talked about, it just makes it that someone has to come out and say something.”
Should the Ravens advance to the Super Bowl and win it to claim the second Vince Lombardi trophy in franchise history, will the reputation of their quarterback improve?
“I don’t care,” Flacco said. “I will be wearing a ring, and we will be holding a trophy. The perception probably won’t change, but it does not really matter.”