OWINGS MILLS — Laughter tends to melt the iciest of controversies, eroding hard feelings.
If Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco and Ed Reed actually have a problem with each other after the free safety was critical of Flacco and the entire offense earlier this week, it definitely wasn’t evident Thursday at practice.
Flacco and Reed pretended to get into an argument when they arrived at practice.
In a light-hearted tone, Flacco said, “[Expletive] you,” to Reed.
And Reed replied by saying, “[Expletive] me? [Expletive] you.”
In the aftermath of Reed saying Flacco appeared rattled during a satellite radio interview, the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year performed some more damage control Thursday.
“We’re past it,” Reed said. “We’re focused on the game at task now. We’re good, man. We’re honest with each other as a team. We’re not focused on that. We’re thinking about this game. What happened last game is last week.”
Reed complained about the media taking a segment of what he said and blowing it out of proportion in his opinion.
“They show what they wanted to show,” Reed said. “I was talking about the whole team, but they only showed me reacting to the offense because they wanted to pub it even more. It caused some flak around here.
“We were critical of ourselves in that game and that’s every teammate of mine, talking about the game that we watched on film. We weren’t satisfied with our effort.”
Reed’s remarks caused a lot of consternation around team headquarters with his timing being questioned as the Ravens prepare for Sunday’s AFC championship game against the New England Patriots.
Flacco passed for two touchdowns with no interceptions against the Houston Texans during a 20-13 win.
Flacco has downplayed what Reed said, calling it no big deal. However, he also said that he was caught off-guard by what Reed said and wondered why he made those comments.
Since Reed unloaded on him, he has met with Flacco and apologized to him.
“I didn’t have to say anything,” Reed said. “I know Joe is a smart quarterback. He’s our quarterback regardless of anything, and that’s pretty much that is all to it. We talked a little bit, but it’s no different than the talks we’ve had over the weeks. I didn’t have to say much. He didn’t have to say much.
“Joe really just came to me as a leader saying, ‘You know, they’re going to run with it.’ And sure enough, you all are running with it — not everybody on the [conference call] — but the media. It comes with the territory, especially when you say something like that. But so be it. We’re good about it. We’re past it. We’ll focus on the game at task right now.”
Although Reed ignited the flap, he did acknowledge that he would have been better off keeping his opinions to himself instead of blabbing to a national outlet.
“In every locker room you probably wouldn’t say things like that in the media because what’s said around here to ourselves probably shouldn’t be broadcast publicly because the public would never understand,” Reed said. “Even fans in Baltimore would never understand.”
Now, the Ravens have work to do heading into Sunday’s kickoff after a week of answering questions about supposed turmoil in the locker room.
Judging by how Flacco and Reed have handled the situation, the tempest seems to be dying down.
“It’s about the Ravens and New England playing football,” Reed said. “All that other stuff is to the side, man. That was about the last game. It’s irrelevant. What are we doing right now? We’re getting ready for the Patriots.”
After pointing out the shortcomings of the offense earlier this week, Reed emphasized something positive about his teammates.
“Our offense has been great, man,” Reed said. “There’s a reason we have gotten to this point.”
INJURY UPDATES: Reed was limited for the second consecutive day due to a sprained left ankle.
He’s the lone player listed on the Ravens’ injury report, but is definitely slated to play Sunday.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (left shoulder) returned to practice and participated fully.
Fourteen Patriots were limited for the second consecutive day.
That included wide receivers Wes Welker (knee) and Deion Branch (knee), offensive guard Logan Mankins (knee), safeties Patrick Chung (knee) and James Ihedigbo (shoulder), offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer (back, foot), defensive tackle Kyle Love (ankle) and tight end Aaron Hernandez (concussion), offensive tackle Marcus Cannon (ankle), linebacker Dane Fletcher (thumb), linebacker Rob Ninkovich (hip) and linebacker Tracy White (abdomen).
Besides Brady, cornerback Kyle Arrington (foot), center Dan Connolly (groin) and wide receiver Matthew Slater (shoulder) participated fully.
CAMERON DEFENDS FLACCO, OFFENSE: Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron became the latest member of the organization to defend Flacco.
Cameron indicated that there were just six plays where Flacco didn’t get a plus grade against the Texans, adding that he’s a hard grader.
He was downgraded for only a few things: fundamentals of footwork and a fumble that was recovered by offensive guard Ben Grubbs.
“He played at an extremely high level against a very good defense,” Cameron said. “Again, that’s through my eyes, and those are the eyes, and his, us collectively, those are the ones that matter to us, because we know what we are trying to get done.”
Plus, Cameron said that Flacco made sound decisions on 12 occasions as he audibled into the correct play or made the proper read when he had several options.
When asked if this is a career-defining game for Flacco, Cameron replied:"How does that saying go, ‘That question kind of insults my stupidity?’ That’s about all I can say to that. Joe’s play speaks for itself. We have a style we think fits this division. We think we have a style that fits this town, this conference, and that’s what it’s all about. We know, obviously, Joe is a big part of our style. This division is a Fu Manchu kind of division. It’s not a clean-shaven one for sure. We’ve got a style, and we like it."
Meanwhile, NFL Films analyst Greg Cosell called the Ravens’ offense "incredibly predictable" this week.
“Watching their tape is like watching the 1960′s,” Cosell said. “One wide receiver to each side, isolation routes. No bunch sets, rub routes.”
Cameron responded to the criticism, saying it comes with the territory.
"We’re trying to build an offense to win division championships," he said. "That’s what it’s about to us. They said the same thing about us in San Diego when we were the No. 1 offense in the league. I hate to make that comparison, but they said the same thing. So, when you’ve seen and heard all of those things over the years, you don’t let that deter what you believe, and what you believe as a program, and what our head coach believes, and what we believe and how you win.
"We are an outdoor team in a tough division. I think the people that I would say I would listen to the most are people that have been in this division and that know what it’s like, the men on the ground in this division, that have to go out and compete in these stadiums against these defenses. That’s how we’re built. There’s probably some predictability to it. If they can just keep predicting we’re winning, then that’s the prediction that I am going to be happy with."
DILFER, BRUSCHI WEIGH IN: Former Ravens quarterback Trent Dilfer chalked up Reed’s commentary on Flacco as a moment of insecurity for a defense about to square off with Brady.
"I took that comment as a little insecurity by Ed and the defense," Dilfer said during an ESPN conference call. "’Hey, we know we’re going up against Tom Brady. Maybe, we can’t hold him like we did the Houston Texans. And we need a little bit more from the offense.’ That’s how I kind of read it between the lines."
Dilfer referenced the Ravens’ Super Bowl championship team that he quarterbacked while leading an unproductive offense.
"We didn’t have that issue," Dilfer said. "We’re going to play the Oakland Raiders with Rich Gannon, and they were one of the league leaders in offense. And Rod Woodson and I were in a helicopter going over from the hotel to the AFC championship press conference, and he looks at me and says, ‘All we need is a touchdown.’
"They didn’t feel insecure with their ability to be able to stop that team. And I think this Ravens team is looking at this Patriots offense and saying, ‘Wait a second, we need our offense to play better, and maybe this is the way to call him out and get more out them.’ Whether it’s right or wrong, that’s how I took the comment."
Dilfer said he was never criticized by his teammates that way during the 2000 season even though his numbers were far worse than Flacco, who passed for 3,610 yards, 20 touchdowns and 12 interceptions during the regular season.
"It did not happen to me privately or publicly," Dilfer said. "I think the reason is that we were very secure in who we were as a team. Others wanted us to maybe win a different way or do something else, but we spoke very openly within our locker room about our profile for success and kind of roles each player had. And we were very secure about what the offense had to do to complement the defense and special teams and vice versa."
Meanwhile, former Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi referenced the famous Godfather film series. And he labeled Brady as Michael Corleone and Flacco as Fredo Corleone.
"Joe Flacco, he wants his respect," Bruschi said. "He hasn’t gotten it, and he’s going to get his opportunity against New England, because there’s going to be multiple lead changes. He may have to bring his team back in the fourth quarter. You want it, you’ve got it, Joe Flacco. Here’s opportunity right now, because right now Tom Brady is Michael Corleone and Joe Flacco is Fredo.
"That’s who he is. He’s Fredo. He wants his respect. Well, if you want your respect, you’re going to have to be that quarterback that plays — well, not better than Brady, but leads your team to victory. So you want it, you’ve got it."
QUICK HITS: Special teams coordinator and assistant head coach Jerry Rosburg praised defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano. "He’s still got his sense of humor," Rosburg said. "He’s still got his biting wit. I don’t think Chuck is going to change regardless of the game. It could be a junior high game, and he would be the same way. He would be coaching hard and making comments that get your attention. He is doing a great job with our defense, obviously, and his personality is one of the things that pushes that." … For the second consecutive game, kicker Billy Cundiff demonstrated that his left calf injury that bothered him in December is behind him. Cundiff connected on field goals from 48 yards and 44 yards against the Texans. "I thought he kicked well," Rosburg said. "He was strong all week in practice, and I thought he really took the practice to the game. He was aggressive on the ball. He went out there and made two really key field goals that were by no means easy in the weather conditions. He put them right through. It was a really a strong performance."