OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) Fifteen months after winning the Super Bowl, Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco is attempting to rebound from the most disappointing season of his NFL career.
After guiding the Ravens to the championship in February 2013, Flacco threw 22 interceptions last season – 10 more than in any of his previous five seasons – and his 73.1 quarterback rating was the lowest of his career.
Even worse, the Ravens went 8-8 and missed the playoffs for the first time since his arrival in Baltimore.
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”It was not a good year all around,” Flacco said Thursday after a team offseason practice session. ”We didn’t win enough football games, and the biggest thing is just taking care of the football. That’s my No. 1 job.”
The Ravens worked hard this offseason to help Flacco bounce back. They hired Gary Kubiak as offensive coordinator and signed several new receivers, including veteran free agents Steve Smith and tight end Owen Daniels. Baltimore also re-signed wide receiver Joe Jacoby and tight end Dennis Pitta, two key players in the Super Bowl win over San Francisco.
”There’s no doubt about it, we’ve got some weapons out there,” Flacco said. ”These guys can all run, they can all go get the ball, they can catch. They’re strong, they’re physical. Every single one of them. I feel good about where we are out there.”
Kubiak takes over for Jim Caldwell, who left to become head coach of the Lions. Kubiak has been working diligently to install a new West Coast offense, and Flacco has been toiling even harder to get a grasp on the system.
If nothing else, it’s been a different kind of offseason for the quarterback.
”Probably more similar to my rookie year I guess, because you’re learning a new offense and have a couple new players and things like that,” Flacco said. ”But I’m excited about it. It brings new challenges, and that makes it fun.”
Head coach John Harbaugh and Flacco came to the Ravens at the same time in 2008. Harbaugh was hired to replace Brian Billick and Flacco was a first-round draft choice out of Delaware. Together, they took Baltimore to the postseason for five straight years. Last season, the string ended
Eager to get another playoff streak going, Flacco has been poring over the playbook and trying his best to take his newfound knowledge to the line of scrimmage. The process hasn’t always been smooth, but it’s a long time until training camp starts.
”I think he’s very businesslike about it,” Harbaugh said. ”He’s got a lot to learn. There’s a lot of offense on his plate right now, there’s a lot of communication. It’s all different.”
On a soggy field during the last week of May, Flacco showed the arm strength that enabled him to earn a $120.6 million, six-year contract in the weeks following his Super Bowl triumph.
”Far hash, 20-yard comeback, the ball is pretty close to numbers-high. That’s always a tell-tale sign of a good quarterback,” Smith said. "We’re both learning the system and learning each other.”
Unfortunately for Harbaugh, his offseason focus hasn’t been entirely on Xs and Os. Four players have been arrested, most notably Ray Rice on assault charges for allegedly striking his fiancee in Atlantic City in February.
Offensive lineman Jah Reid was charged with battery for an incident outside a Florida strip club; receiver Deonte Thompson was arrested and charged with suspicion of possessing marijuana and drug paraphernalia; and last weekend rookie running back Lorenzo Taliaferro was arrested for breaking the window of a taxi cab.
This did not sit well with Harbaugh, who addressed the team Wednesday.
”There have been a lot more phone calls this year than other years to find out what the heck some guys are thinking at times,” he said. ”I’m disappointed with some of the silliness that’s going on. Character really matters to us. You don’t do the right thing just because you call a cab. How about we start out with the idea that we’re not going to go out and drink?”
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