Joe Flacco: a Blue Hen with a golden arm

201301251258467172773-p2.jpeg

Joe Flacco: a Blue Hen with a golden arm

OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) Maybe Delaware is the new Quarterback U.

When Joe Flacco takes the field with the Baltimore Ravens against San Francisco, he'll be the second former Blue Hens quarterback to start a Super Bowl. Rich Gannon was the first with Oakland 10 years ago.

That's more than powerhouses USC, Texas, Oklahoma and Florida combined. It's one more than Miami, Michigan, Tennessee, Penn State, Florida State, Syracuse, Nebraska and Pitt.

Stanford, UCLA, BYU, Maryland and Washington State also have two. Only Notre Dame, Alabama, Purdue and California have three.

Quite an impressive feat for a second-tier football college in the second-smallest state in the U.S.

It's a good thing Flacco didn't turn to baseball when he hoped or he may not have even made it to the NFL.

The story goes like this. After his junior season at Delaware, Flacco went to then-coach K.C. Keeler and told him he'd like to pitch for the Blue Hens' baseball team in the spring. Keeler and other coaches persuaded him to concentrate on football.

Over the years, the context of that conversation has been reported different ways. Flacco set the record straight this week, making it clear he simply wanted to play two sports and wasn't considering quitting football.

``K.C. misrepresents that,'' Flacco said. ``I just wanted to play baseball because I liked baseball. I never was giving up on football. I always had a lot of confidence in my ability there. I just wanted to have a little bit of fun.''

Flacco had an outstanding senior year and led Delaware to the FCS championship game against Appalachian State. He wowed Baltimore's scouting department in a long workout before the draft and ended up being selected by the Ravens with the No. 18 overall pick in 2008.

Since then, Flacco has done things no other quarterback has accomplished during the Super Bowl era.

Flacco is the first quarterback to lead his team to a playoff victory in each of his first five seasons. His six postseason wins on the road rank first and he leads the league with 62 victories since 2008.

``I'm really happy for him and as a former Blue Hen, I'm really proud,'' said Gannon, who was the NFL MVP in 2002 when he led the Raiders to the Super Bowl, a loss to Tampa Bay.

``His career is off to a terrific start and you can only imagine what will happen next Sunday if he's able to get the job done and win a world championship.''

Flacco has padded his already remarkable resume this month. In three playoff games, he's thrown eight touchdown passes and not a single interception. His biggest achievement, though, is beating Peyton Manning and Tom Brady on the road in consecutive games to help the Ravens win their second AFC championship.

``This isn't just instant success,'' Gannon said. ``You go back and study the guy and this has happened over the last five years. He has some rare talent. He can really throw the ball and he has good mobility for a guy his size. He's going to get better and the team around him is going to get better.''

The 28-year-old Flacco grew up in South Jersey and starred at Audubon High School, a short ride from Philadelphia. He went to Pittsburgh at first, but transferred to Delaware after redshirting his freshman year and playing in just three games in 2004. Flacco didn't get a transfer exception from then-Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt so he had to pay his way to Delaware.

If he has any student loans bills remaining, Flacco can easily pay those off after this season. He's eligible to become a free agent and surely will get a lucrative contract from the Ravens.

All he cares about now is hoisting that Vince Lombardi Trophy on Feb. 3.

``I think it's just one of those things you dream of when you are a little kid,'' he said. ``You watch Joe Montana and those guys light them up in the Super Bowl. So, to be here at this point is pretty special.''

Gannon exchanged text messages with Flacco before the AFC title game at New England last week and spoke to him several times during the season. As a broadcaster for CBS Sports and SiriusXM NFL Radio, Gannon has covered many of Flacco's games and knows him well.

``I don't think Joe cares about individual awards,'' Gannon said. ``He's always been a team guy and they wouldn't be there without him. I think he's misunderstood. A lot of people think he's aloof or he's not into it, but a lot of young players don't like to deal with the media. He's ultra-competitive, he's become one of the leaders of that football team and he's done an outstanding job.''

And to think Flacco went to Delaware, a school that's produced fewer than 25 NFL players and only five were quarterbacks. Scott Brunner, Jeff Komlo and Andy Hall are the other three.

Flacco and teammate Gino Gradkowski, a backup offensive lineman, will be the fourth and fifth former Blue Hens to play in a Super Bowl. Gannon, Ivory Sully (Los Angeles Rams) and Ben Patrick (Arizona Cardinals) were on losing teams.

``To have this opportunity is pretty cool,'' Flacco said. ``There are a lot of people in this league that can't say they've ever gotten to this point, so it definitely feels good to get here.''

---

Follow Rob Maaddi on Twitter:https://twitter.com/RobMaaddi

---

Online:http://pro32.ap.org/poll andhttp://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Ozzie Newsome, Ronnie Stanley deny Laremy Tunsil was Ravens' choice before video

newsomeharbaughstanleyrefframe_1.jpg

Ozzie Newsome, Ronnie Stanley deny Laremy Tunsil was Ravens' choice before video

OWINGS MILLS -- Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome denied the Ravens were going to pick left tackle Laremy Tunsil over Ronnie Stanley, until the gas mask video of Tunsil appeared on social media prior to the draft.

“No,” Newsome said Saturday night, when asked point blank if Tunsil would have been the Ravens’ choice, absent the video. “There’s a lot of speculation.”

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported the Ravens were going to pick Tunsil at No. 6, but picked Stanley instead after the video became public. Tunsil plummeted to No. 13 where the Dolphins took him, costing Tunsil millions of dollars.

Stanley took exception to Schefter’s report, refuting it on Twitter Saturday.

Believe who you want. But the careers of Stanley and Tunsil will now be compared even more, with both the Ravens and Dolphins hoping their rookie left tackle has the better NFL career.

After finishing 5-11 in 2015, and having already dealt with the domestic violence elevator video of former running back Ray Rice in 2014, can you blame the Ravens for passing on Tunsil? The controversy would have hovered over the Ravens and Tunsil -- baggage the Ravens don’t need, and can’t afford.

The Ravens did not shun Tunsil to reach for somebody who had no business being drafted No. 6. Some scouts had Stanley rated over Tunsil even before the video.

“He (Stanley) was right at the top row, with the top row of players,” said Ravens coach John Harbaugh.

Newsome has admitted the Ravens tried to trade up to No. 4 to get defensive back Jalen Ramsey. But the Cowboys stayed put at No. 4 and took running back Ezekiel Elliott. After Ramsey went No. 5 to the Jaguars, the Ravens took Stanley at No. 6.

The fact Newsome was willing to disclose how badly he wanted Ramsey was revealing. Newsome is not worried about protecting Stanley’s feelings. There is already pressure on Stanley, and if he can’t handle that, he is going to struggle anyway.

Remember, Tunsil wasn’t the only top player the Ravens passed on at No. 6. Any of the next five players drafted would have addressed one of the Ravens’ primary needs - defensive end DeForest Buckner (No. 7, left tackle Jack Conklin (No. 8), outside linebacker Leonard Floyd (No. 9), and cornerbacks Eli Apple (No. 10) and Vernon Hargreaves (No. 11).

Stanley’s job is to prove Newsome made the right choice. But Tunsil’s video? That was one video too many for the Ravens.

Ravens draft grade: Solid, not sensational

ravens_add_correarefframe_1.jpg

Ravens draft grade: Solid, not sensational

After a draft that featured a whopping 11 players, the Ravens should be better, and they are. We’re all guessing at this point, but I’d give them a B grade for this draft. Here are five takeaways Ravens’ which should explain why I like their draft, but can’t love it at this point:

1. The Ravens attacked their need for pass rushers

Unless the Ravens missed in the second-round (OLB Kamalei Correa), the third-round (DE Bronson Kaufusi), and the fifth-round (DE Matt Judon), their pass rush will improve. With those three, along with Elvis Dumervil and Za’Darius Smith, the Ravens can get after quarterbacks even if Terrell Suggs is not the same after his second Achilles injury.

2. Not taking a cornerback sooner could haunt the Ravens

They need corner help, but did not get any until drafting Tavon Young of Temple (fourth-round) and Maurice Canady (sixth round). If those two are slow to develop, the Ravens could find themselves scrambling to find cornerback help in August, especially if there is an injury or two at that position.

3. More playmakers should make the Ravens more explosive

The pass rushers on defense should create more turnovers.  And keep an eye on running back Kenneth Dixon (fourth round) and wide receiver Chris Moore (fourth round). Dixon is shifty, and he has good hands. Moore is a deep threat with superb ball skills. Both have the potential to be Sunday playmakers, not only in 2016, but beyond.

4. Taking either pass rusher Noah Spence or inside linebacker Miles Jack would have given this draft more star potential

After Laremy Tunsil’s gas mask video surfaced, I agreed with the Ravens’ decision to take left tackle Ronnie Stanley at No. 6. But the Ravens may regret passing on both Spence and Jack in the second round. After wide receiver Breshad Perriman missed all of last season with a knee injury, it’s hard to blame the Ravens steering clear of Jack due to his knee issues. But without Jack, the Ravens still need help at inside linebacker next to C. J. Mosley. As for Spence, maybe the Ravens’ background check told them it was too risky to take him, after he left Ohio St. for Eastern Kentucky due to drug issues (ecstasy). But Spence went No. 39 to the Buccaneers, and if he becomes a double-digit sack artist immediately, that will be tough for Ravens fans to watch.

5. Keenan Reynolds could be much more than just a popular sixth-round pick

Ravens’ officials had tears in their eyes talking about the reaction of former Navy star Reynolds, after he received the Ravens’ phone call. It’s a feel-good story, but it could be much more. Reynolds has all the traits to be a dynamic punt returner – toughness, vision, open-field quickness, and sound judgment. Reynolds usually makes the most of an opportunity. Don’t be surprised if he does it again.

Ravens take chance on Navy QB Reynolds after position change

2016-04-28t02-11-46.029z-1280x720.jpg

Ravens take chance on Navy QB Reynolds after position change

After his memorable career at Navy, Keenan Reynolds fulfilled another dream Saturday when the Ravens drafted him in the sixth round (No. 182 overall).

Reynolds has been told by Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome that he will compete for a roster spot as a wide receiver – punt returner, after playing quarterback at Navy. When he received the phone call from Newsome, Reynolds described it has one of the most emotional moments of his life. 

“Relief, excitement,” Reynolds said during a conference call. “I was upset (watching the draft). I know I can play with these guys. To see my name, to see my phone ring…It’s a dream come true. All I ever wanted to do was play on Sundays.”

It remains to be seen if Reynolds’ Navy obligations will interfere with his dream of an NFL career. Reynolds said he had already talked with some Navy officials, and hoped a resolution could be reached.

“I think being in the DMV area is going to help my cause, but again that’s a call that’s up to the Navy,” Reynolds said. “It’s up to the secretary of the Navy and the Navy. But right now I’m just trying to bask in what the now is, and I’m just blessed to be picked up, and I’m ready to get started.”

Asked when he would get an answer from the Navy, Reynolds said, “It will be soon. It will probably happen within the next few days. 

Reynolds believes he can make a quick transition to wide receiver. 

“I’ve been running routes like crazy, trying to get quicker in and out of my routes, I’ve been catching punts – everything that they want me to do. To get to work with Steve Smith Sr. and learn from him, try to get better from him? It’s going to be an awesome ride.”

CSN analyst Brian Mitchell, a former returner with the Redskins, has been working with Reynolds on his punt return technique. 

“He kind of gave me some extra drills,” Reynolds said. “He brings an innovative style, also perspective from somebody who has returned punts. I’m just extremely excited.”