With toughness, Ravens QB Joe Flacco has grown into team leader

The Baltimore Sun

Sometimes, I get a little tired of extolling the Ravens front office for its uncanny ability to identify talent, but it’s hard not to do that whenever Joe Flacco steps to the microphone for one of his podium sessions at the Under Armour Performance Center.

The guy was a small-school wunderkind with a big body and a great football IQ, but somebody was smart enough to foresee that he could be one of the winningest and toughest quarterbacks in the NFL. That toughness showed up early when he played through that horrible thigh bruise early in his pro career, and it has shown up throughout this season while he takes a weekly pounding behind the Ravens’ struggling O-line.

But the thing you have to love the most is the way he shrugs it all off, which is just more proof that he’s a solid guy who -- despite his New Jersey roots -- personifies Baltimore football in much the same way Johnny Unitas did.

“I feel great,’’ he said Wednesday. “It’s part of the job, man. Playing football in the National Football League means taking hits every now and then. You’ve got to get up and buck up.”

No comparisons intended there, just an observation after watching Flacco on and off the field for five-plus seasons. He has grown into an articulate leader who always holds himself accountable, even when he would have every right to point the finger elsewhere.

That’s why it was so impressive to see him bounce back from his five-interception performance against the Buffalo Bills in Week 4 to grind out Sunday’s road victory over the Miami Dolphins on an afternoon when the Ravens had only three wide receivers active at kickoff.

“It was a big game for us, not only the receivers,’’ Flacco said. “Our left guard [Kelechi Osemele] couldn’t go and A.Q. [Shipley] filled in great. Any time you can get a win against a good football team with not a lot of guys healthy, it’s a big week for us. It was definitely a big win, and it’ll prove that way down the line.”

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