WESTMINSTER — It was a day before rookie quarterback Joe Flacco will begin delivering the football with the velocity that made him the Baltimore Ravens’ first-round draft pick, but it’s understandable if he’s already a bit sore heading into the first practice of training camp.
As Flacco finalized a five-year, $30 million deal that includes $8.75 million in guaranteed money Monday after agreeing to terms last Wednesday, his right hand got some exercise as he repeatedly wrote his name on a contract as thick as most books.
"I really didn’t pay attention to it," Flacco said. "There were so many signatures."
By avoiding a holdout situation, Flacco has positioned himself to contend immediately for the starting job.
Flacco arrived early at the team hotel, pacing the hallways as he awaited the paperwork.
His reaction to the financial windfall was typically understated. The New Jersey native doesn’t plan any shopping sprees or major purchases.
"Everybody has been congratulating me, but I don’t really see it as that big a deal," Flacco said. "I knew I was going to be here the first day of camp. I knew I was going to get this contract signed and I’m just excited to be here and be out on the practice field and get going."
It’s worth noting that other recent first-round quarterbacks, including the Cleveland Browns’ Brady Quinn and the Oakland Raiders’ JaMarcus Russell, have seen their prospects for first-year playing time vanish due to lengthy holdouts.
"Having Joe here gives him the best chance to have the type of career we think he’ll have," said general manager Ozzie Newsome, who credited Ravens chief negotiator Pat Moriarty and Flacco’s agent, Joe Linta, for being proactive in negotiations. "We will win some battles and lose some battles, but getting him here on time is very important to us. Joe has come in and started to confirm some of the things that were told to us by people that were close to him and some of the things that we have seen on tape.â€
Ravens coach John Harbaugh had a simple take on Flacco’s decision to expedite contract talks.
"It means that he likes football," Harbaugh said. "I think we knew that about him going in and that’s a big reason why we moved up to draft him in the first round."
At 6-foot-6, 235 pounds with a powerful arm, Flacco literally towers over his competition for the starting job: Troy Smith and Kyle Boller.
However, heâ€™ll need an extremely impressive camp to overtake them. Team officials regard him as a quick study and won’t be shocked if he ascends to the top spot.
â€œIâ€™m going to go out there and act like I am, just like everybody else should do,â€ Flacco said. â€œI want to go out there and play the way Iâ€™ve always played football, and expect myself to play. I want to prove to everybody that I can play. Obviously, at the end of camp weâ€™re going to find out.â€
Although Flacco is intelligent with a hard-nosed nature, Harbaugh admitted that he isn’t inclined to rush the former Delaware star.
"I think that’s factored into the equation, the fact that he’s a rookie and hasn’t played an NFL game before and his long-term development," Harbaugh said. "That probably weighs against him. But, if all those things being considered, if he’s the best guy and gives us the best chance to win, he’ll be the guy."
The Ravens drafted Flacco 18th overall after trading up with the Houston Texans to make sure they acquired the former Division I-AA standout.
With Flacco’s vast potential, the Ravens are hoping this is the last quarterback competition staged in Baltimore for several years.
"It will probably be the last time we’re ever in this situation here, I would hope, for a long time to come," Harbaugh said. "It’s a very unique situation. It’s competition in its truest form.â€
So far, Flacco has impressed the team with his powerful arm strength and quiet poise. Yet, today marks his debut in front of fans eager for a glimpse of the new prize quarterback.
"I’m just going to go out there and throw the ball around, complete some passes," Flacco said. "Everybody goes through some rough patches as a rookie quarterback, but those are things you have to deal with. Good quarterbacks get through that kind of stuff, and I’m anxious to get out there and get started."
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital