Flacco begins collecting awards as Super Bowl MVP

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Flacco begins collecting awards as Super Bowl MVP

NEW ORLEANS (AP) Working on 90 minutes of sleep, Joe Flacco wore a day-old beard and a weary smile that wouldn't go away.

Super Bowl tradition deems that the game's MVP appear at a ceremony the following morning to shake hands with the commissioner of the NFL, accept the shiny trophy, pose for pictures and receive the keys to a new car. And so, after celebrating the Baltimore Ravens' 34-31 victory over the San Francisco 49ers into the early hours of Monday morning, Flacco dutifully fulfilled his obligation.

The quarterback's immediate reward for throwing three touchdown passes on Sunday night was a 2014 Corvette. In the months ahead, Flacco is almost assured of receiving a lucrative, long-term contract befitting his incredible performance during Baltimore's run to the NFL championship.

In the playoffs, Flacco had 11 TD passes and no interceptions, a feat NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell called ``extraordinary.''

``He was unflappable and brought his team to a Super Bowl level,'' Goodell said. ``His play represented that all the way through.''

Less than 12 hours after hoisting the Lombardi Trophy over his head amid a shower of purple confetti, Flacco still couldn't come to grips with what he and the Ravens had accomplished.

After throwing for three scores in the first half to stake the Ravens to a 21-6 lead, Flacco directed two scoring drives in the fourth quarter to help fend off a 49ers comeback. He was 22 for 33 for 287 yards.

``I'm pretty tired right now, and it hasn't sunken in,'' he said. ``It's just a surreal moment.''

With a parade scheduled for the team on Tuesday, Flacco planned to visit Disney World in Florida on Monday afternoon before heading home.

``I anticipate not getting very much sleep, but it's for all good reasons, man,'' he said. ``Unbelievable game. It was just awesome to be a part of it.''

After the game, Flacco shared a little secret with the rest of his family: He and his wife are expecting their second child. After the Ravens played San Francisco last season, he revealed their first child (a boy) was on the way.

Flacco almost assuredly has a big payday upcoming as well. His rookie contract ends after this season, and soon he and owner Steve Bisciotti will sit down to determine just how much a Super Bowl title will be worth. He could wind up with one of the biggest deals in NFL history, perhaps commanding somewhere in the neighborhood of $20 million a year.

``I'm pretty optimistic, but who knows?'' he said. ``This is a great organization, I love being here, great city. So I don't anticipate any problems.''

Part of Flacco's negotiating tactics might include raises for members of his offensive line.

``Tell you what, our offensive line has played very well since I've been here, but the last four games have been just unbelievable,'' he said. ``They're the reason that I'm standing here and we are Super Bowl champs.''

Before the Super Bowl, Bisciotti expressed confidence that Flacco would be the Ravens' quarterback of the future.

``We've never lost a great, great franchise player from the beginning,'' Bisciotti said. ``I'm just very comfortable that it will get done.''

The last time the Ravens won a Super Bowl, they dumped quarterback Trent Dilfer and brought in Elvis Grbac. A similar situation almost assuredly won't occur this time, in part because it would seem difficult to get someone deemed an upgrade from Flacco.

``Joe Flacco is the best quarterback in football right now,'' Ravens running back Ray Rice said.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh, who also attended the news conference Monday, recalled his first meeting with Flacco before the Ravens drafted him out of Delaware in the first round of the 2008 draft.

``Joe impressed me as a guy that was really was determined to be good and had a lot to prove,'' Harbaugh said. ``I just felt like he was a guy that was going to do whatever it took to be the best he could be. And that's proven to be true.''

Can Ravens WR Michael Campanaro stay healthy enough to secure roster spot?

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Can Ravens WR Michael Campanaro stay healthy enough to secure roster spot?

OWINGS MILLS – Third-year wide receiver Michael Campanaro will have a difficult time making the Ravens in 2016 if he does not stay healthy. He is not off to a good start. A calf injury forced Campanaro to miss the first week of OTA’s, and his return date remained uncertain.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh expressed empathy for Campanaro following Thursday’s practice.

“He tweaked his calf a couple of weeks ago and he’s working hard,” Harbaugh said. “I’ve just never seen a guy work as hard as this guy has worked in the last year and a half. There will be a time he will get past this stuff. This stuff will stop happening and hopefully it’s training camp, and that’s what we’re hoping for him. The guy works tremendously hard and he was in phenomenal shape, and we’re still expecting really good things from him.”

Campanaro’s season ended last year after just four games due to a herniated disc. As a rookie in 2014, Campanaro was plagued by hamstring injuries that did not clear up until late in the season.

When Campanaro has been healthy, he has produced as a slot receiver. During the Ravens’ 35-31 playoff loss to the Patriots that ended his rookie season, Campanaro had four catches for 39 yards, and looked unfazed by postseason pressure.

However, Campanaro’s injuries have kept him from building momentum as a player. Meanwhile, the Ravens have added Mike Wallace and rookies Chris Moore and Keenan Reynolds to a wide receiver group that also includes Steve Smith Sr., Kamar Aiken, Breshad Perriman, Jeremy Butler, Kaelin Clay, and Chris Matthews.

Campanaro could help the Ravens as a returner, but so can Reynolds and Clay. The Ravens have been waiting for Campanaro to show he can remain healthy. If that does not happen during training camp, it might be too late.

Five observations from Ravens OTAs

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Five observations from Ravens OTAs

The Ravens are wrapping up their first of three -- oops, make that two -- weeks of OTA workouts this week, and Thursday's session was the first open to the media. Here are five observations after catching the first partial glimpse of the 2016 Ravens (partial because more than a dozen players, including many starters, sat out the voluntary workouts either by choice or because of injury.)

This wide receiver group appears impressive

Steve Smith Sr. wasn't even there, but Breshad Perriman, Mike Wallace and rookie Chris Moore all look like they will be nice options for Joe Flacco (who, incidentally, watched the OTAs in a T-shirt as he continues his knee rehab.). Heck, the fact that Perriman was on the field is already a big improvement over last year. Kamar Aiken reverts to being a very solid No. 3 or No. 4 option if this group stays healthy. Speaking of health, Michael Camapanaro (calf) missed the workout, and with this group of receivers, including Navy's Keenan Reynolds, Campanaro is one more nagging injury from not making this roster. 

Dennis Pitta could leave the Ravens in a very tough spot

Good for Dennis Pitta to work back from his second major hip injury and get back on the field, even if for noncontact OTAs. He ran, cut and caught well, and he said after the workout that he felt great physically. "My level of expectation is extremely high going into this year," he said. "Like I said, I feel confident in how I can run, how I can move, how I can play." But if Pitta, who turns 31 next month, is indeed healthy, then what? The Ravens brought in Ben Watson this year, and already have two promising young tight ends in Crockett Gillmore and second-year, second-round pick Maxx Williams. None of them are going anywhere. Would the Ravens cut Pitta, one of the most likable players on the team and a close friend of Joe Flacco's, after his grueling rehab? Would they keep four tight ends? That would be highly unusual, but not out of the question with Marc Trestman's offense. Incidentally, tight end Todd Heap was 31 when the Ravens let him go.

Interesting look at inside linebacker

With Daryl Smith gone and C.J. Mosley sitting out, rookie second-round pick Kamalei Correa, billed as an edge rusher, spent a lot of time at inside linebacker. Coach John Harbaugh said afterward that Correa "has inside linebacker traits." The Ravens also appear to be looking at safety Anthony Levine as a linebacker option. He did some individual work with the inside linebackers and spent some time as an inside linebacker in 7-on-7 drills. Coverage was a big issue for Ravens linebackers last year, so if Levine and Correa show they can cover well over the middle, that versatility could be a big plus.

Lardarius Webb seems at home at safety

The move from corner to safety should agree with Lardarius Webb. He drifted over well in deep coverage, but it wasn't encouraging to see a potential interception bounce off his hands. This team had a franchise-record-low six interceptions last year. Webb said moving to safety has been "a great transition. I’m loving it. I have more control of the defense."

Losing a week of OTAs isn't the end of the world

The Ravens have been docked next week's OTA workouts as a penalty for reportedly having players in pads for a brief portion of their rookie minicamp in violation of the current collective bargaining agreement. It certainly isn't a good look, but it shouldn't have much bearing on whether the Ravens can beat the Steelers on Christmas night. Many veterans weren't on the field this week anyway. It might be a speed bump in development for Ravens rookies and other newcomers, but there's a lot of training camp for that. Three days off in June might do some bodies good. If anyone is hurt by this it might be Keenan Reynolds -- the former Navy quarterback is trying to quickly learn the wide receiver position, and he missed the OTAs this week because of his graduation in Annapolis.

Timmy Jernigan models game after Warren Sapp whether he likes it or not

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Timmy Jernigan models game after Warren Sapp whether he likes it or not

Apparently, it will take more for Ravens defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan to impress Hall of Fame defensive lineman Warren Sapp.

Jernigan has changed his number this year from 97 to 99 in tribute to Sapp, who wore that number. But when the Ravens tweeted about it last night, Sapp replied in objection

“I always grew up watching Warren Sapp,” Jernigan told reporters Thursday after OTA practice (but before Sapp's retort). “I definitely wanted to model my game after him.”

Maybe it’s a rivalry thing for the older player. Sapp went to the University of Miami, while Jernigan went to Florida St.

Whatever the case, Jernigan feels ready to make a major leap in his game. His body looked more chiseled than last year Thursday, the result of weight lifting and running stadium steps in the hot Florida sun at Columbia High School in Lake City, Fla., Jernigan’s hometown.

“I’ve been doing a lot of stuff that kind of got me here,” Jernigan said. “This offseason I started doing a little bit more power cleans, the Olympic lifts, and getting back to running stadiums and stuff like that when I go home in that 100 degree Florida weather. I like to get out there when it’s hotter than hot so days like this don’t really bother me.”

Jernigan has shown flashes of the big-play ability he had in college, with four sacks in each of his first two seasons with the Ravens, after being a second-round pick in 2014. But for Jernigan to reach another level, he will have to show more consistency, durability, and stamina.

Making the Pro Bowl is one of Jernigan’s goals. But a bigger goal is helping the Ravens return to the playoffs.

“Every day we walk through those doors we’re thinking about, ‘Man, we went 5-11 last year,’’’ Jernigan said. “When I want to take a break, that’s what I think about. It’s not acceptable. The players don’t accept it. The coaches don’t accept it. Nobody in this organization does, so it’s definitely on our mind every day.”

Jernigan believes this is the year for his game to break out.

“Just have to become that force that I was drafted to be,” Jernigan said.

That is Jernigan’s mindset. Regardless of what Sapp thinks.