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Flacco no fan of cold-weather Super Bowl

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Flacco no fan of cold-weather Super Bowl

NEW ORLEANS (AP) Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco apologized for his word selection in criticizing the NFL's decision to hold next year's Super Bowl in an outdoor stadium at a cold-weather site.

On Monday, Flacco was asked about the game being played at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.

``I think it's retarded. I probably shouldn't say that. I think it's stupid,'' he said.

On Tuesday, he was contrite.

``Obviously, it was a poor choice of words,'' he said. ``At home, I have a close relationship with Special Olympics. I didn't mean to offend anyone.''

Flacco would like nothing more than to return to the Super Bowl next year, even if it might be in freezing conditions for the first time. It's in his home state to boot.

The fifth-year pro from Audubon, N.J., preparing for Sunday's Super Bowl against the San Francisco 49ers, is not a fan of playing the next big game in East Rutherford.

``I think it's obvious reasons,'' Flacco said. ``They've done it the way they've been doing it for 47 years. There's a lot that goes into this game, more than just playing the game: It's about the fans and it's about the players that played for the right to get there. There are a lot of things that go into it and it's just kind of a crazy decision, I believe.''

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NFL HONORS: Celebrity presenters for ``NFL Honors,'' the TV show featuring The Associated Press awards, will include Steve Carell and Channing Tatum.

The program will air Saturday night, Super Bowl eve, from 9-11 p.m. EST on CBS, which also is televising the game on Sunday.

Other presenters will include Connie Britton, Jason Clarke, Josh Charles, Craig Ferguson, Nina Dobrev, Jeremy Renner, Olivia Munn, and Zoe Saldana.

The AP will present the league's MVP, Coach of the Year, Comeback Player of the Year, Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year, and Offensive and Defensive Rookies of the Year during ``NFL Honors.''

Actor Alec Baldwin will host the show, which will feature live performances from One Republic and New Orleans' natives The Soul Rebels.

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NECKLACE? WHAT NECKLACE? 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh was asked about the ``necklace'' he wears on the sideline during games that includes a Sharpie. He seemed taken aback.

``Well I take great offense that you call it a necklace. It's a whistle,'' he said with a smile, drawing laughs from the media. ``It's a coaches' whistle that coaches have long worn around their neck. I believe every coach should have a whistle. It's hard to imagine going out to practice without a whistle.

``Then I just put a pen onto the whistle string. It's not complicated at all. If I need a pen, it's just right there.''

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MOSS WANTS MORE: Last week, the Ravens' Ed Reed said he plans to be back for another season. On Tuesday, the 49ers' Randy Moss said he wants to come back, too.

One of the first questions Moss was asked when the 49ers kicked off Super Bowl media day Tuesday was whether Sunday's game would be the final one of his 14-year, five-team, potential Hall of Fame career.

``I've thought about it,'' the 35-year-old Moss said, ``I do want to play another year.''

Moss has seen limited playing time this season with 28 catches for 434 yards and three TDs, plus five catches for 71 yards in the playoffs.

The 34-year-old Reed promised to be ``playing next year,'' ending speculation he was about to call it a career. Reed, a nine-time Pro Bowler and probable Hall of Famer, is finishing his 11th season, and was one of only two players on the Ravens' defense to start all 16 regular-season games. He has a club record 61 interceptions and the NFL-record of 1,541 yards in interception returns.

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NEVER TUCKERED OUT: Ravens kicker Justin Tucker was extremely patient telling every single person just how much it means to be an undrafted rookie in the Super Bowl.

Even the guy who asked him to answer a series of questions in hash tags, Twitter-style.

``In Twitter hash tags? All right, let's try it out,'' Tucker responded to the odd request in a day full of them.

Being at the Super Bowl? ``Hash tag, awesome.''

Beyonce Knowles? ``Hash tag, awesome.''

Destiny's Child reunion? ``I mean, hash tag, awesomer, I guess. That's a pretty good group.''

Winning the Super Bowl? ``Hash tag, unbelievable.''

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DANCIN' NINER: The 49ers' podium move of the day goes to Vernon Davis. The tight end sat up straight in his seat and demonstrated longtime long-snapper Brian Jennings' unique pregame ritual for the media day crowd. Davis crossed his arms in front of his face and fluttered them in a smooth, downward motion.

Yoga or tai chi, perhaps?

``It's yoga, tai chi,'' Davis said. ``It's weird, but it works for him.''

Davis' pregame routine sounds rather boring in comparison: He eats lots of vegetables and a chicken breast.

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MARYLAND CONNECTION: The University of Maryland has produced several notable NFL quarterbacks, including Boomer Esiason, Frank Reich and Neil O'Donnell.

The quality of quarterbacks in College Park hasn't been up to that standard lately, but there will be two Terrapins with solid hands playing in the Super Bowl.

Tight end Vernon Davis will start for San Francisco and wide receiver Torrey Smith is starting for Baltimore.

``He's one of the greatest Terps,'' Smith said of Davis. ``He's a great guy and we hang out in the offseason.''

This isn't for bragging rights.

``We're not really playing against each other since we're on the same side of the ball,'' Smith said. ``And so, either way, the University of Maryland wins.''

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Stanley: Meaningful December games part of Ravens culture

Stanley: Meaningful December games part of Ravens culture

As the Ravens make their final month-long drive for the playoffs, they are right where they want to be: playing meaningful games in December.

Granted, they'd probably prefer a two-game lead in the AFC North, but they are once again right in the thick of the playoff chase, which is the way it has almost always been for the Ravens under John Harbaugh.

In fact, until last season, the Ravens had never played a game under Harbaugh in which they were mathematically eliminated from playoff contention.

Still, the team missed the playoffs in 2013 and then again last season. Many younger players have little to no playoff experience.

"The biggest thing is just trying to somehow get it through to the young guys how unique of an opportunity we have," quarterback Joe Flacco said after Sunday's 38-6 win over the Dolphins. "Getting to the playoffs is a big-time accomplishment, and to position yourself in December to play these meaningful games is also a big-time accomplishment, and you can’t take it for granted."

Rookie first-round draft pick Ronnie Stanley is one of those younger players, and he said from the minute the Ravens called his name with the No. 6 overall pick in April, he fully expected to be in this position.

"When I got drafted, I knew I got lucky in the sense that usually teams like the Ravens aren't picking this early," Stanley said after Sunday's game. "And when I say teams like the Ravens I mean teams that are usually in the playoffs every year."

"I definitely knew I was coming to a team that was used to being in the playoffs and didn't accept anything less, so I was very excited about that."

Stanley missed four games with a foot injury, and his return -- and a solidified, adjusted offensive line that features All-Pro Marshal Yanda shifting over to play left guard -- is a major reason the Ravens have reeled off four wins in five games after an earlier four-game losing streak.

Now they head to New England on Monday atop the AFC North, and win or lose in New England, they will head to Pittsburgh on Christmas Day with a division title still in reach.

That's exactly how Harbaugh, Flacco and the veteran Ravens are used to having it. Now the onus is on Stanley and other young players to keep it that way.

"Our goal is always to be relevant in December," Harbaugh said last week. "We like to be in the lead in December. We want to have the lead in December, if we can. We’re in that position right now. That’s as much as we’ll talk about. It’s a one-week season for us."

RELATED: Ravens run defense will have its hands full with LeGarrette Blount

 

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Ravens' No. 1 run defense will have its hands full with LeGarrette Blount

Ravens' No. 1 run defense will have its hands full with LeGarrette Blount

One of the Ravens’ toughest challenges Monday night will be trying to contain Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount. The Ravens have the NFL’s top-ranked run defense, yielding just 73.8 yards per game. Blount is fifth in the league in rushing (957 yards) and is one of the NFL’s most physical backs.

Jay Ajayi of the Dolphins had 61 yards on 12 carries against the Ravens on Sunday, and his run style is similar to Blount’s. Ravens defensive tackle Brandon Williams talked about the pride the Ravens take in stopping the run after Sunday’s game.

“We’re the No. 1 run defense in the league right now,” Williams said. “That’s what we do. When running backs come against us, we just do our jobs.”

It will be interesting to see how the Patriots and quarterback Tom Brady attack the Ravens. With tight end Rob Gronkowski done for the year with a back injury, Blount figures to be a major part of the Patriots’ game plan.

Blount already has four 100-yard games and is about to top 1,000 yards for only the second time in his career. Will Blount have his way against the Ravens’ No. 1-ranked defense? The answer to that question will play a key role in determining which team wins.

MORE: Joe Flacco can taste the playoffs