OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Joe Flacco and the Ravens see the light at the end of the tunnel.
No longer limited in anything he does physically, the 31-year-old quarterback will primarily focus on getting his throwing arm in shape for training camp with most of the heavy lifting from rehabbing his surgically-repaired left knee now behind him.
“If I had to go play in the Super Bowl today, I’d be out there playing in it,” said Flacco, who underwent surgery just over six months ago. “I expect to be on the field for the first day. We’ll see how I feel at that point. I’m kind of curious to see as training camp goes along. Am I going to have sore days and stuff like that? But I expect to be out there and ready to go.”
The Ravens will welcome him back to the field with open arms as they try to rebound from the first losing season of the John Harbaugh era. It’s been difficult to evaluate the Baltimore offense this spring with backup quarterback Ryan Mallett at the helm, but Flacco downplayed the significance of missing spring organized team activities and mandatory minicamp as he continued to recover.
Though expressing excitement to work with free-agent newcomers Benjamin Watson and Mike Wallace in the passing game, Flacco quipped that seeing the veterans look so tired after spring workouts made him not miss being on the field as much at this point in the offseason.
But it’s almost time to get back to normal work for the Super Bowl XLVII Most Valuable Player, who signed a three-year extension worth $66.4 million this offseason that keeps him under contract through the 2021 season.
“I know you have this itch, this desire to get out there, but you’re just not quite ready,” said Watson, who suffered a season-ending knee injury as a rookie with the New England Patriots in 2004. “I can relate to him on that level. Just watching him knowing that he has control of the offense and that he’s one of the great quarterbacks in the league is exciting for me when he does get out there.”
Even as Flacco expects to be ready for the first day of training camp physically, some unknown exists as it relates to being back in the line of fire.
After all, Flacco was injured in the pocket when offensive tackle James Hurst was driven back into his knee, tearing the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his left knee. That kind of environment can’t be replicated during the rehab process.
“When I’m out there running around and cutting on it and doing those things, there is no tentativeness because I didn’t hurt it that way,” Flacco said. “I hurt it getting hit. I’m curious. It will probably be a little different the first time I take a couple dropbacks and feel a little bit of guys coming [after me in the pocket]. I’ll have to step and throw still, but I don’t expect to have those kinds of thoughts linger in my head.”
Participating in meetings and continuing to rehab and work out throughout the spring, Flacco has watched portions of practices and hasn’t been completely isolated from the rest of the team. However, nothing beats the camaraderie fostered from being on the field with teammates.
That feeling was absent after he suffered the worst injury of his entire football career.
“I wanted to be the guy that played 15, 16, or 17 years and didn’t miss a snap,” Flacco said. “To come to grips with that was definitely tough to begin with. To see your teammates out there and not be out there with them [or] see them come back in the locker room on Monday or Tuesday after the game and see the fun they had or even the distraught that was in their eyes because they lost a game, it was all that stuff that you missed out on being a part of.
“You very quickly get isolated and tossed aside when you’re not on the team and not playing. That is just the reality of this game. It goes very quickly; it moves on very quickly.”
Fortunately for Flacco and the Ravens, that time is finally behind them.