"Flacco, are you going to outplay T.J. Yates or are you going to let Yates outplay you?" former running back and current NFL Network analyst Marshall Faulk asked on the air. "This is going to say a lot about Joe Flacco and what we say about him from here on."
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Jaworski believes that Flacco is plenty good enough to take the Ravens to the Super Bowl. He also maintained that a lot of the criticism directed at the fourth-year signal caller is unfair.
"I'm literally shocked that Joe hasn't been accepted more, and not [just] in Baltimore, but around the country," he said. "What do you hear about [Denver Broncos quarterback] Tim Tebow right now? 'Oh, he's a winner.' What the hell has Joe Flacco done? Playoff wins, on-the-road wins. Joe lines up and gives you consistent play, week-in and week-out. Maybe Joe needs to pound his chest a little bit more and brag about himself. I'm saying that facetiously, but Joe is kind of unassuming, goes about his business. But the guy lines up and he's tough. What more does this guy have to do before people trust him? Even the national media looks more for the warts on Joe Flacco than all the good things that he's doing."
His teammates also insist that the quarterback's public persona and his reputation as a quiet and unemotional guy — one of the frequently heard criticisms about Flacco — are far from the player that they witness on a daily basis. Rookie backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor talked about all the times Flacco has spent with him, answering questions about the playbook and inviting him to review game film. Evans praised Flacco for his communication skills and for keeping things light even during tough times.
"People may think, 'Does he have a personality?' He always comes across as kind of dry and whatever, but he's the opposite of that," Evans said. "I think that's what a lot of people don't see, his personality, how good it is to work with him. The way he communicates has been great."
Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron even laughed off the attention paid to Flacco's uncharacteristically feisty interview on Wednesday. Flacco, smiling throughout, was clearly having a little fun with it, but his comments got a lot of attention, especially since so many members of the national media were in town.
"We're just fortunate we get to see him a little bit differently than you guys do so you guys are a little surprised by that and we're not. So welcome to Joe Flacco," Cameron said. "The bottom line is we're all shutting everybody up all the time these days. You have to, and Joe's just one of those guys, he's got the courage to come out and say it."
For his part, Flacco seems amused by the attention he gets. He doubled over in laughter when he was informed that baltimoresun.com did a poll asking what he and his wife, Dana, should name their first child, which is due in mid-June. He also has fun at the regular questions about the Fu Manchu mustache that he is sported since the Ravens' Thanksgiving game. The other questions, he accepts as a necessary bi-product of his chosen profession.
"When you're a quarterback in this league, you're going to be talked about and it's going to be on a weekly basis," he said. "Really, things you've done in the past don't really matter. That's why you've got to make sure you go out there and are on top of your game each and every week. At the same time, put all of that stuff behind you and trust your teammates have your back."
That's clearly the case with the Ravens. Asked about his faith in Flacco this week, middle linebacker Ray Lewis, who has seen quarterbacks come and go in Baltimore during his 16-year tenure, said, "Now, where we are, why wouldn't it be Joe to go lead us to a Super Bowl?"
As he usually does, outside linebacker Terrell Suggs took it one step further, saying, "Joe will show you all where he's at. We're going to ride Joe all the way to Indianapolis."
That road starts Sunday, and nobody will be under more pressure and scrutiny than Flacco.
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