Ravens QB Flacco coming into his own

Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco during a game against the Bengals in at M&T Bank Stadium Baltimore,...

Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco during a game against the Bengals in at M&T Bank Stadium Baltimore, Md., Sept. 10, 2012. (GARY CAMERON/Reuters)

RYAN WOLSTAT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:01 PM ET

For a long time, Joe Flacco has been regarded as a weak, or middling link on very good Baltimore Ravens teams.

Perhaps that line of thinking is now outdated, if it ever actually was factual.

Flacco was spectacular in Baltimore’s win over Cincinnati on Monday, helping his team rack up 44 points.

He threw a 52-yard completion to Torrey Smith on the first play of the game and kept rolling from there, completing 21-of-29 passes for 299 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.

He spread the ball around and basically did whatever he wanted.

The performance prompted head coach John Harbaugh to send ownership a message about the soon-to-be free agent:

“Pay him whatever he wants, pay the man,” a laughing Harbaugh told reporters after the game.

“We’ve always stood up here, and we’ve always, all our coaches, the organization, we know what we’ve got in this guy ... of course he is (elite). He is a winner. He is one of the toughest quarterbacks I have ever been around. He’s the best quarterback I’ve ever been around.”

High praise.

While Dallas owner Jerry Jones says he isn’t thinking about doling out an extension for Tony Romo, who has a contract through the 2013 season, Houston’s Matt Schaub just got a four-year extension and Flacco’s contract is up after this season.

Despite the criticism he has received over the years, the man has led Baltimore to the playoffs his first four years in the NFL, something no other quarterback has accomplished.

“The stats might not always say 299 yards or 300 yards or 450 yards. But the bottom line is I go out there, and I play hard, I play tough, and we win a lot of football games around here,” Flacco said.

BAD NEWS BILLS

Buffalo officially ended receiver David Nelson’s season on Tuesday, placing him on injured reserve, but the news was better on Fred Jackson, who will only miss three-four weeks due to a knee injury.

The team signed Johnny White to help out at running back behind C.J. Spiller in Jackson’s absence.

White played for the team last year but was released in August. The Bills also have Tashard Choice at the position.

Nelson tore a knee ligament in the opener.

“It’s a setback,” said head coach Chan Gailey.

“You lose experience and you lose versatility. But I think our guys can adjust.”

The Bills are a horrible 1-9 since Week 9, tied with Tampa Bay for the worst mark in the NFL and have allowed 33.5 points per game while scoring 18.9 since then.

Most of the struggles have come minus Jackson, who broke his leg in 2011 with the Bills sitting at 5-5.

QUICK HITS

Arizona quarterback John Skelton is expected to miss 2-4 weeks because of a sprained ankle allowing Kevin Kolb a chance to claim the starting job ... Pittsburgh might get linebacker James Harrison back for Sunday’s home opener against the New York Jets. Harrison hasn’t played or practised with the team since last season, but worked out on Monday. The Steelers expect safety Ryan Clark to play ... Ravens star Ray Lewis gave a eulogy at the funeral of former Baltimore owner Art Modell on Tuesday. Ravens safety Ed Reed says his hamstring is fine ... Oakland has signed fullback Marcel Reece to a contract extension, but has lost wide receiver Jacoby Ford for “a significant amount of time,” due to foot surgery ... Kansas City will have defensive leader Tamba Hali back this week after he served a one-game suspension ... Denver has signed centre Dan Koppen, according to the Denver Post ... Adrian Peterson got all the headlines, but it was the play of young quarterback Christian Ponder in Minnesota’s overtime win that impressed head coach Leslie Frazier. Ponder rallied the team to victory and had Frazier raving about his poise ... The NFL Network plans to experiment with cameras in the end zone pylons. They might even be in place this week ... Philadelphia has cut Jaiquawn Jarrett, the team’s second-round pick in 2011 ... Lovie Smith says Brian Urlacher will start on Thursday.

VILMA GOOD FOR GOODELL

Jonathan Vilma has made it abundantly clear that he is no fan of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

But he likes getting paycheques and appears ready to deal with his role in the New Orleans Saints bounty program.

His lawyer, Peter Ginsberg, said Tuesday that Vilma will tell the league he is ready to meet with Goodell.

He was suspended by Goodell but reinstated by a court last week, though he was unable to suit up on Sunday because of injury.

“I’m expecting a fair meeting, unlike the June 18 appeals hearing,” Vilma wrote in a text message to ESPN.

“We can all benefit from transparency regarding evidence and witnesses instead of using conjecture or hearsay to come to inaccurate conclusions. I look forward to getting this accomplished.”

Vilma felt that the league was using him as an example in the past and even walked out of an appeals hearing.

“Jonathan has been and continues to be willing to cooperate in any way that helps the truth come out,” Ginsberg told ESPN.

“We only hope the commissioner keeps an open mind and doesn’t feel restricted by his previous and clearly erroneous conclusions.”

We’re thinking that last part won’t help Vilma’s case.

BEARS: BRING IT ON!

Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall are looking forward to some bruising football on Thursday.

They certainly don’t seem concerned about Green Bay’s punishing defensive backs.

“Good luck,” Cutler said about the Packers plans to play physical with Chicago’s receivers.

“We’ve got some dudes that, if you’re gonna get up in their face, even our speed guys are gonna get around them, and our big guys are gonna throw and go,” Cutler said. “So we invite press coverage. We invite man (coverage).”

Marshall and rookie Alshon Jeffery are both big and aggressive and will not back down from Green Bay’s secondary.

“It’s all about matchups. I’m 6-5, 230, and there aren’t too many DBs walking around that big,” Marshall said.

“If they want to get physical, I do welcome that. But again, you look at (Tramon) Williams and (Sam) Shields over there, and even (Charles) Woodson when he’s down there. They like to mix it up. They give you different looks, and that’s what makes them big-play potential.”

With Cutler rolling and his receivers able to match up with big, tough defenders, the Bears are looking to end Green Bay’s recent dominance in head-to-head matchups.

The potential absence of Packers wide receiver Greg Jennings, who was unable to practice on Tuesday after getting injured on Sunday, would also help the Bears.

COACHES SHAKE IT OFF

When Detroit takes on San Francisco on Sunday night, attention won’t just be on the players.

Many will be wondering how head coaches Jim Harbaugh and Jim Schwartz will greet each other after the contest.

Last season, Schwartz freaked out when an over-animated Harbaugh shook his hand too aggressively and gave him a slap on the back following San Francisco’s comeback victory at Ford Field.

It looked like the fiery Schwartz wanted to come to blows with the former quarterback.

Harbaugh just wants everybody to forget about an incident he sees as “completely irrelevant.”

“Our approach with the mini controversies are really to give them the attention that they deserve, which isn’t much,” Harbaugh said.

“People who will choose to use that to promote this game, or any other game, I think are really missing the point. The game is just so much bigger. As a rule of thumb, I have too much respect for the men who play this game, on both sides, and too much respect for the game to give it anything (more) than it deserves.”

Schwartz added that it was “long in the past.”

WHACK WEEDEN?

Poor Cleveland, where there seem to be more controversies than wins every season.

The Browns decided to keep Colt McCoy on the team, knowing that if Brandon Weeden struggled, the popular McCoy might get some vocal support from the fanbase.

Well, after Weeden’s dismal debut, the calls are already coming to replace him with McCoy.

Weeden was picked off four times, fumbled twice, completed only 12 passes and had a QB rating of 5.1 — yes, you read that right.

But head coach Pat Shurmur said bad play by Cleveland’s receivers made Weeden look a lot worse than he really was.

Shurmur says Weeden’s job is safe and the fans will just have to accept that.

“Clamoring for Colt? Brandon Weeden is our starter and he’s going to get better, that’s what I’m going to tell them,” Shurmur told the media.

Shurmur is being bold. With a new owner waiting to take over, there could be a complete purge in Cleveland at the end of the season, which makes opting to go with the rookie Weeden a gutsy call.

We’ll see if it lasts if he duplicates Sunday’s effort.

BUCS D-LINEMAN THE REAL MCCOY

Gerald McCoy has not received the amount of attention the two guys picked in front of him in the 2010 NFL Draft — Sam Bradford and Ndamukong Suh — have, but that could be about to change.

McCoy was a force in Tampa Bay’s Week 1 win over Carolina, helping to keep one of the league’s best offensive players, Cam Newton, under control.

Tampa Bay held Carolina to just 10 rushing yards, tying the franchise record, in a 16-10 win.

McCoy had a sack, another hit on Newton and two tackles for loss.

The Bucs hope McCoy is the long-lost replacement for Warren Sapp.

Sapp is a fan of McCoy, and even called him after the impressive game – to give him some motivation.

On one play, McCoy seemed to have Newton, but couldn’t get him down.

What did Sapp say about that?

“Sapp called me last night and said, ‘Look, if you’ve ever got a quarterback in your grasp like that and you let him out, me and you are going to fight,’ ”

McCoy told the Tampa Bay Tribune.

“I don’t want none of that. It’s hard to bring (Newton) down. The dude moves like a receiver. He’s going to be good for a long time.”

Just like McCoy, it seems.


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