Ravens' Flacco trying to add Super Bowl to resume

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Ravens' Flacco trying to add Super Bowl to resume

OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) Maybe it's going to take a trip to the Super Bowl to convince those outside the Baltimore Ravens' locker room that Joe Flacco is an elite NFL quarterback.

Flacco is the only starting quarterback in NFL history to reach the postseason in each of his first five seasons. His 61 victories (including the postseason) are more than any NFL quarterback since the start of the 2008 season.

Flacco has won five road playoff games in his career, tied with Eli Manning for the most in NFL history. Joe Montana didn't do it. Neither did Brett Favre, Steve Young, Troy Aikman or Peyton Manning.

Each of those greats, however, owns a Super Bowl ring. So does Tom Brady, who will lead the New England Patriots (13-4) in Sunday's AFC championship rematch against the Ravens (12-6).

Flacco's teammates don't care about how his resume stacks up against the other greats in the game.

``That's a question you guys have got to answer,'' wide receiver Anquan Boldin told reporters this week. ``He already has our respect.''

Flacco's 7-4 record in the postseason speaks loudly about his ability to excel in big games. The former first-round draft pick out of Delaware outplayed Peyton Manning last weekend, throwing for 331 yards - including a 70-yard strike to Jacoby Jones in the closing seconds of regulation to force overtime in a game the Ravens ultimately won 38-35.

The touchdown pass to Jones might have thrust Flacco into the discussion about whether he can stand among the elite.

``You go out there and you play to win the football game and some of the things that have been required to win these football games have maybe been a little bit over the top and a little abnormal,'' Flacco said. ``I would like to think that I go out there and play consistently and approach everything the same way. I think that's been proved out. We win a lot of football games around here, and this is actually the third time I'm standing up here getting ready to play in an AFC championship game.

``It's pretty crazy when you think about it.''

The guy is good. So far, not quite good enough to take his team to the Super Bowl. But he's taken the Ravens to the brink, and hasn't missed a start since earning the job as a rookie in training camp.

``We love Joe, have for a long time,'' center Matt Birk said. ``You're always going to have naysayers out there, but we're not concerned about that. The great thing about Joe is, neither is he. Joe is very comfortable with who he is and the type of player he is. That's a great trait for a leader to have, especially a quarterback in the NFL.''

He's got another great trait for a quarterback: The ability to throw the deep ball. Few have done it as well this season as Flacco, who has completed 46 passes of 25 yards or longer, including TD throws of 70, 59 and 32 yards last week in Denver.

Asked to describe Flacco's deep ball, Jones replied, ``It's like a Starburst. It's just juicy, man. It's good. It's like candy. Everybody likes candy.''

On the Ravens, it seems like everyone likes Joe.

``I've never played with a guy with that much talent; I'm talking about physically,'' Boldin said. ``I think Joe is able to make any throw on the field. Big-time throws, the deep ball, he does it all.''

Flacco is known among his teammates as Joe Cool because of his calm demeanor in the huddle and the pocket.

``He doesn't flinch in any situation,'' wide receiver Torrey Smith said. ``That's what we like about him. He's the same, whether we're doing well or bad, and you can trust a guy like that.''

When it's time for business, Flacco doesn't panic. Against Denver, he moved the Ravens 77 yards in 38 seconds with the game on the line.

``You all might think we're lying about it, but I'm being so serious when I say that when we went to the huddle, no one doubted for a second that we (were) going to score,'' Smith said. ``Did we think it was going to be a 70-yard bomb? No. But no one panicked. It was just so calm in the huddle. It was like, `All right. Let's go do it.' And we got it done.''

Recalling the drive, Flacco said, ``There's no need to get all worked up over stuff like that when you know you have put all of your time, all of your effort into going out there and having fun and winning the football game. There's no need to blow it out of proportion and get overwhelmed by that kind of thing. I think when you have that mindset, it is easy to go out there and stay calm and play in that moment.''

Flacco earned the Patriots' respect in last year's title game when he outplayed Brady and nearly pulled off an upset. Earlier this season, Flacco threw for 382 yards and three scores in Baltimore's 31-30 win over New England.

``He's tough to bring down, he stands in the pocket, he takes a hit, he gets up. That's a tough football player,'' Patriots tackle Vince Wilfork said. ``When you have a quarterback like that, that's special.''

Flacco's rookie contract expires after this season. Regardless of what happens Sunday - and whether he gets a long-term deal or receives Baltimore's franchise tag - he is due for a big payday in the months ahead. But Flacco has more pressing issues in mind this week.

``I'm sure it's back there somewhere, but it's not something I've really thought about or really considered,'' he said.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh has made his position clear: Pay the man.

``He is one of the toughest quarterbacks I have ever been around,'' Harbaugh said. ``He's the best quarterback I've ever been around.''

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AP Sports Writer Howard Fendrich contributed to this report.

AFC North: Will Steelers RB Bell stay healthy this season?

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AFC North: Will Steelers RB Bell stay healthy this season?

Here’s a key AFC North question. Will Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell stay healthy?

Bell is without question one of the league’s most talented backs. However, knee injuries have ended his season the past two years, leaving the Steelers without him when they were eliminated from the playoffs.

De’Angelo Williams did a superb job in place of Bell last season, rushing for 907 yards and 11 touchdowns. But Bell is a better pass receiver and more elusive – capable of turning almost any play in to a big play. In 2014, Bell had over 2,000 yards combined from scrimmage – 1,316 yards rushing and 854 yards receiving.

Bell doesn’t want to be labeled as injury-prone, yet some people already view him that way. But at Steelers OTA’s, Bell showed up looking healthy, while vowing not to run cautiously next season.

“I’m going to be physical,” Bell told ESPN.com. “I’m out here with no knee brace or anything, didn’t wear a sleeve or anything. I’ve been training my knee for everything I’m about to go through, so when September gets here I’ll be even better than I am now. That’s even crazy to think about. But I’m excited.”

When Bell has been healthy, putting up numbers has not been a problem. The more Bell plays next season, the better the Steelers’ chances of making the playoffs.

Urschel spends his spring getting straight A's at MIT

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Urschel spends his spring getting straight A's at MIT

If the NFL had an All-Academic team, Ravens offensive lineman John Urschel would be on it.

In February, Urschel began the Ph.D program in mathematics at MIT. How’s he doing so far? Here’s a hint. When it comes to grades, Urschel is only familiar with one letter in the alphabet.

“My first semester in school in nearly three years,” Urschel wroter on Twitter. “Four PhD classes at MIT. Four A’s. The streak continues!!!”

Entering his third season with the Ravens, Urschel has found a way to juggle his love for football with his love for mathematics. He posted an interesting article on The Players Tribune this week in which he described training with the football team at MIT this spring.

“I probably had about 50 or 60 pounds on the biggest guy on MIT’s O-line,” Urschel wrote. “But when we ran, they put me to shame. They could outsprint me.

“What I found is that the team at MIT is no joke. It is a football team – in some ways, more of a football team than any I’d ever seen. These guys love football. They are playing the game because they want to. No one is making them come to practice, no one is checking up on them. They know as well as anyone about head injuries; they know that football is dangerous; they know the feeling of exhaustion and pain. They still play. They don’t do it for money, and they don’t do it for status.

“We talk about dedication and passion in the pros, but the truth is, sometimes the game feels like a job. You start to think of the paycheck. You feel the grind. But training with the team at MIT, I started thinking about what had drawn me to football as a kid. It felt like a game again. I had thought I might have something to teach the team. I never imagined they’d have so much to teach me.”

That guy in the Dos Equis beer commercials might be the most interesting man in the world. But Urschel has built a strong resume as the most interesting player on the Ravens.

RELATED: NFL ANNOUNCES LOCATIONS FOR 2019, 2020 AND 2021 SUPER BOWLS

NFL announces locations for 2019, 2020 and 2021 Super Bowls

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NFL announces locations for 2019, 2020 and 2021 Super Bowls

The NFL has decided on the locations of the 2019, 2020 and 2021 Super Bowls. The vote took place at the NFL owners meetings in Charlotte on Tuesday. 

Atlanta will host Super Bowl LIII in 2019, while South Florida (Miami) will get the event in 2020 and Los Angeles will host in 2021. 

The cities chosen each included new or upgraded stadiums in their pitches to the league. 

Atlanta will be home to the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium, opening in 2017. 

Miami's stadium (Sun Life Stadium from 2010-2016) is undergoing a $400 million renovation that will include an open-air canopy to provide shade for 92 percent of seats, according to Sports Illustrated. Construction should be complete before the 2017 season. 

And Los Angeles will boast a new 300-acre, campus-style stadium housing the Rams and potentially a second team. The $2.6 billion project will be the most expensive sports arena in the world, reports CNN, and should be ready before the 2019 NFL season.