Joe Flacco using OTAs to become familiar with new offense

He has a new offense to learn, different voices in his ear and a couple of additional targets at his disposal.

Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, however, seems intent on keeping his approach unchanged, even after the most disappointing season of his NFL career.


In his first extensive comments to the local media since the end of last season, Flacco expressed excitement about new coordinator Gary Kubiak's West Coast offense, acknowledged the need to take better care of the football and bristled at the suggestion that he hasn't put enough time in to learn the offense and gain more chemistry with his wide receivers.

"I'm going to go out there and play," Flacco said Thursday in his usual matter-of-fact manner. "I'm going to learn the offense. The last problem we're going to have is myself [not] knowing exactly what everybody is going to do on the field. That's never a concern."


The start of organized team activities for the Ravens brought the first look at Kubiak's offense, the practice debuts of wide receiver Steve Smith and tight end Owen Daniels, and the same old questions about Flacco who is preparing for his seventh NFL season under significantly different circumstances.

After a season in which Flacco, 29, set a franchise-record with 22 interceptions and threw his fewest touchdown passes since his rookie year, the Ravens' underperforming offense predictably underwent change.

The most jarring of it for Flacco is the man calling the plays. Kubiak, who replaced Jim Caldwell as offensive coordinator after Caldwell was hired as the head coach of the Detroit Lions, stood behind the line of scrimmage Thursday and regularly communicated with Flacco and the other quarterbacks. New quarterbacks coach Rick Dennison was also close by, working with the group.

Kubiak is Flacco's third offensive coordinator in the past 18 months.

"It's always a little bit different when you have some new guys in here," Flacco said. "There's a freshness to it. It kind of has a way of getting you more excited, I guess. But we're just getting into it. I'm trying to remember the play from [Dennison] to the huddle and make sure I get it called right so I don't look like an idiot."

In a two-plus hour practice held in a steady rain, Flacco made a couple of nice deep throws, giving Torrey Smith and Deonte Thompson an opportunity to go up and make plays down the sidelines. But there were also several shaky releases, including a ball that Flacco threw well over the head of Marlon Brown in the middle of the field.

Flacco angrily clapped his hands after one errant throw but was generally low key throughout the practice.

"There's always something you're trying to learn during OTA's no matter what," Flacco said. "This year is a little bit different obviously. It's probably more similar to my rookie year, I guess, because you're learning a new offense, you've got a couple of new players."

Wide receiver Steve Smith, one of those new players, described his chemistry with Flacco as a "work-in-progress."

"I'm new and it's a new system," Steve Smith said. "It's a lot to get into. We're both learning the system and learning each other."

Flacco acknowledged that he didn't do a whole lot of homework on Kubiak's past. He didn't watch any tape of Kubiak's past offenses with the Denver Broncos and Houston Texans, nor could he communicate with his new coaches per rules of the collective bargaining agreement.

Several of the Ravens' receivers said earlier in the offseason that Flacco was hoping to get everybody together for informal workouts, but those never occurred. Time and logistical concerns factored, but the overriding reason the workouts did not take place was that the offense was still being overhauled. The Ravens got their new playbooks in March and it's been a crash course since.


Flacco, meanwhile, started coming to the facility regularly for offseason workouts in April.

"I'm just learning it," Flacco said. "… I guess a lot of it is about me, but it's also about the team and learning the offense and how comfortable we can be as a group running this thing."

Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said that he's been pleased with how Flacco has handled things.

"I think he's very business-like about it right now," Harbaugh said. "He's just going to work. He's got a lot to learn and there's a lot … on his plate right now. There's a lot of communication. It's all different terminology than he's ever had before. The concepts are the same but they are organized in a different way. So, he's going to have to learn that and learn how to operate it."

Flacco feels he'd "fit well" in any offense, declining to reveal what he likes best about Kubiak's attack, which is known for its zone running and emphasis on play-action pass.

Last season, Flacco threw for a career-high 3,912 yards, but his 22 interceptions were 10 more than he had thrown any other season. His 73.1 quarterback rating was a career low and his 59.0 completion percentage was the second lowest of his career. Most painful, he was home for the playoffs for the first time since he was drafted into the NFL.

"It was not a good year all around," Flacco said. "We did not win enough football games, and the biggest thing is just not taking care of the football. That's my No.1 job — it always has been — and it's always going to be a focus of mine. I just need to make sure I do a good job of doing it."

In typical Flacco fashion, he insists that he quickly moved on from last season. He spent significant time this offseason as a stay-at-home dad for his two young boys, a job that didn't allow for much sulking and dwelling on the recent past.

His sprained left knee that hampered him over the final two games has healed and the challenge of learning a new system and having more playmakers has brought additional excitement.

"We've got some weapons out there," Flacco said. "These guys can all run, they can all go get the ball, and they can catch. They are strong; they are physical — every single one of them. I feel really good about where we are out there."


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