Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco said Monday morning that he and the offense are in for an adjustment with the short-term loss of wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. and the season-ending injury to wide receiver Michael Campanaro.
Both suffered back injuries in Thursday's 23-20 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field.
"Obviously, you guys can see what [Smith] does out there and what he presents for defenses," Flacco said Monday morning at Charles Carroll Barrister Elementary. "Not only for himself, but I think he opens things up for other guys. It'll definitely be an adjustment for us, and guys are going to have to step up."
Ravens president Dick Cass and Flacco, flanked by his sons, 3-year-old Stephen and 2-year-old Daniel, visited the Pigtown elementary school, where the Ravens Foundation renovated the library and donated backpacks and books to the school's 370 students.
Flacco also read a select group of young students the classic children's book, "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie," and joked after that it might already be time to start recruiting some of the bigger kindergarten students to play wide receiver.
Smith is expected to miss at least Sunday's game against the Cleveland Browns with microfractures in his back, while Campanaro suffered a season-ending back injury against the Steelers.
"At the end of the game there, you could tell that we were kind of losing [them]," Flacco said. "Every play, a guy was down. It's just part of the league. You've got to be able to deal with it and adjust and deal with all that adversity. I think we're going to be all right, but hopefully those guys get better. I know Mike, I just heard about him yesterday. It's just one of those tough things you have to deal with."
Without Smith, Flacco's primary target, and Campanaro, who was growing into a bigger role, the Ravens had three healthy receivers after the game — Kamar Aiken, Marlon Brown, and rookie Darren Waller.
They traded on Saturday for wide receiver Chris Givens from the St. Louis Rams, who Flacco admitted to knowing little about, other than that he runs well. That speed and potential downfield element — so important last year with Torrey Smith and absent this year with rookie Breshad Perriman still recovering from a knee injury — will "help out a lot", Flacco said.
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"We've just got to … get him in there, and make sure he knows what he's doing so we can make the most of him," Flacco said.
In addition to reading to the students, Flacco spoke at a school assembly on the importance of reading, as did city schools CEO Gregory E. Thornton and Cass.
"The Ravens are more than a football team," Thornton said. "They're a member of our community, and they work very hard to be a part of the community. When we had some challenges in the city, I looked up at one of my playgrounds and I saw Ravens. They weren't playing football, they were actually working with our young people to be certain they get to a good place."
After the event, Cass said the library renovation "is part of our continuing commitment to make our city even better."
"This school is a great school, very diverse student body, adjacent to our stadium — virtually next door," Cass said. "So, it seemed like this was a great school to do an important library project. It just made a lot of sense for us to pick this school."