Joe Flacco has watched several mainstays he knew as Ravens fixtures move on or retire.
He has seen his own stock rise to the point that he won Super Bowl XLVII MVP and earned a $120 million contract that was the richest in NFL history at the time he signed in March. (It has since been surpassed by Aaron Rodgers’ $130.75 million pact with the Packers.)
Some might feel the urgency to become something more, especially now that Mr. Raven Ray Lewis will no longer be donning purple on Sundays.
As he enters his sixth training camp with the Ravens, Flacco says he feels little added pressure on himself or the team to become something more than they have been during their first five seasons together - a wins factory to the tune of a 54-26 regular season record since 2008.
“I think if we didn’t win (the Super Bowl), you all would still be saying we suck. If we did win, you all would still be saying the same - I don’t know about you guys here, but a lot of people,” Flacco said Tuesday. “So I don’t think it really matters either way. All we can do is go out there and keep winning just like we have every year that we’ve been here, and not really worry about what people say and what our expectations are and what the pressure is going to be. Who really cares?
“I can’t really complain. We won last year. I have a lot of money, so I’m going to get a lot of money, and we’re going to win football games. That’s the way it is around here and that’s what we’re going to get used to and that’s what we want to be used to - is winning football games. We’re not going to apologize for acting like we’re a good football team. Our expectations are high and we don’t care if that comes with pressure or if it’s not pressure, whatever it is. We expect to win.”
As for whether Flacco believes he has to fill a different set of responsibilities now that Lewis is gone, the Ravens’ franchise quarterback doesn’t believe that will be necessary.
“I’m always a leader. I’m not going to really change my role,” he said. “We don’t really have Ray Lewis here anymore, if that’s what your asking. Me and him are probably different in the terms of the way we lead anyway. I’m not going to change what I do at all just because I make more money. That has nothing to do with leading a football team.
“I’m going to go out there, I’m going to play well and I’m going to lead by example, and I’m going to have fun with my guys. I’m going to get them to trust me and we’re going to be a good football team because of it.”
Flacco did throw some teasing words in No. 52’s direction now that the future Hall of Fame linebacker has called it a career, acknowledging that there will be a different feel on the practice field without him.
But is Lewis’ absence noticeable already?
“He’d probably be taking like three reps out here at this practice. He wouldn’t be here anyway yet. He’d probably be taking three reps,” Flacco joked. “All the three reps that he was in there, yeah, you would know that he was in there. He’d be going all back and forth with you, acting like he’s Superman.
“Believe me, he brought a lot of fun to the practice field and that’s never going to be replaced. A lot of the guys that we lost, they were a lot of fun to be out here with. We’ll miss that part a little bit, but everybody has a little bit of attitude. He just happened to be a little bit extra special. I think the guys that we have, we’re focused on being good and having a team of our own, so you don’t really think about that too much.”