Flacco named Diet Pepsi Rookie of the Year

Street Talk Flacco named Diet Pepsi Rookie of the Year

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OWINGS MILLS — Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco was rewarded for his playoff success and overall rookie achievement, claiming the Diet Pepsi Rookie of the Year award at a ceremony Thursday in Tampa, Fla.

The only rookie quarterback in NFL history to ever win two playoff games, Flacco won the award over Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, who won the Associated Press’ Rookie of the Year honor, Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte, Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson and Houston Texans running back Steve Slaton.

The balloting was determined by 1,002,500 fan votes, well over last year’s 440,000 total. Since the voting was held in January, the Ravens’ run to the AFC title game definitely helped Flacco’s cause.

"I would like to thank all the fans," Flacco told reporters at the Super Bowl site. "They’ve been voting every week and throughout the playoffs, which I’m sure helped a lot. It was a great year and I couldn’t really imagine it going this way for myself.

"It’s pretty cool because it’s from the fans. There’s so many rookies that you can give it to any of us. Anytime you have fans sitting there and voting for something, that’s what it’s all about. .. The playoff run helped. It shows what getting playoff experience can do for you."

Drafted in the first round out of Delaware, the towering quarterback passed for 2,971 yards and accounted for a total of 16 touchdowns on 14 touchdown passes and two rushing scores.

Flacco went 9-2 as a starter in the final 11 regular-season games as he threw at least one touchdown pass during the Ravens’ final six road games.

He was shut out in the voting for the AP rookie award conducted by a national panel of 50 reporters who regularly cover the NFL. Only first-place votes are cast in the balloting.

"It doesn’t matter," Flacco said of not winning any other awards. "The main thing is to go out there and win games. When you’re up for these kind of awards, there’s so many different people that can win. It’s really a toss-up.

Flacco didn’t commit a turnover and wasn’t sacked in the Ravens’ first two playoff games before throwing three interceptions in the AFC title game loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

By throwing a touchdown pass in eight consecutive games, Flacco tied Joe Namath and Babe Parilli for the third-longest streak among rookie quarterbacks.

"I wouldn’t say anything surprised us," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said last week when asked about Flacco’s progression. "We had high expectations for Joe, and we were hopeful for a lot of reasons. His ability to come back week after week and maintain a high level of focus and work ethic over the course of a long season, to go as far as he did, I think that’s very telling about what he’s all about."

Asked repeatedly about his ability to block out distractions and remain composed as a rookie, Flacco said he didn’t feel like a rookie by the end of the season after making a total of 19 starts from the beginning of the regular season through the postseason.

"You get to a certain point in the season and it’s kind of the same for everybody," Flacco said. "You go into work and you’re tired every day. I haven’t felt like a rookie for a while now."

Flacco said he had a strong feeling that he might be winning this award since his agent, Joe Linta, was being regularly prodded by the league to make sure that the Ravens’ starting quarterback attended the event.

Flacco would have obviously preferred to be in Tampa for a different reason if the Ravens hadn’t lost 23-14 to the Steelers.

"I didn’t plan on coming down here," Flacco said. "We’ve had time to look back on the season, and it was a lot of fun. It’s all gone away at this point.

"It was disappointing and it still is to a certain point. Bottom line, we’re not here. It’s tough to get here. We’ll try to get here next year."

Flacco’s Super Bowl prediction offered a window into his personal feelings.

"I saw Warren Sapp picked the Steelers because he wanted the Cardinals to win, I think I’m going to do the same thing," Flacco said. "That’s my pick, the Steelers, but Cardinals, I’m rooting for you."

NOTE: Ryan, Slaton, Johnson and Forte all picked the Steelers.

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.

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Aaron Wilson

About Aaron Wilson

Aaron Wilson covers the NFL for National Football Post as well as the Baltimore Ravens for The Carroll County Times and Ravens24x7.com. He has previously covered the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans and has covered the NFL since 1997.  He has won several regional writing awards, including, most recently, Best Sports News Story for the state of Maryland in voting conducted by the Associated Press managing editors. 

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