National Football League

            === Flacco's five-year plan yields Super opportunity ===
 By Lyle Fitzsimmons, Contributing NFL Editor
 (Sports Network) - At halftime of the Pro Bowl, Joe Flacco surely looked the
 In fact, as the newly-minted 28-year-old (his birthday was Jan. 16) bantered
 casually with NBC host Dan Patrick, it was hard to imagine a time he'd been
 regarded as anything other than the cool playoff assassin who'd taken down
 guys named Manning and Brady on the previous two Sundays.
 But just five years ago this April, he was anything but.
 Back then, even as the Baltimore Ravens' brass held a jersey in front of him
 and claimed he'd been the player -- plucked at spot No. 18 in the NFL Draft --
 that they'd wanted all along, not everyone in the audience was buying the
 premise of a Delaware Blue Hen-turned-pro football star.
 "Some teams have been burned by some small-college kids who haven't
 transitioned well," said ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. "They're very conservative about
 taking a chance."
 The basic cable guru had Flacco positioned no better than third on his 2008
 quarterback prospect board; lumping him alongside Michigan's Chad Henne and
 behind both Boston College's Matt Ryan and Louisville's Brian Brohm.
 As it turned out, Ryan went to the Atlanta Falcons with the third overall
 Brohm was chosen 56th overall by the Buffalo Bills.
 And Henne was gone one pick later at No. 57, courtesy of the Miami Dolphins.
 None of those three -- nor the aforementioned Manning and Brady -- will be on
 the field this Sunday in New Orleans for Super Bowl XLVII.
 But Flacco, thanks to Baltimore's 28-13 win at New England in the AFC
 Championship Game, will.
 "I really don't care (about the doubters)," he said. "There are guys out there
 that have got to make a living on hating on somebody. If that's going to be
 us, if that's going to be me, then I plan on being around for a while. And if
 you want to continue to do it, I'll be here."
 As for his 2008 colleagues, they're having their own concerns these days.
 Brohm never made an impact in two seasons with the Bills, losing a pair of
 starts among three appearances in 2009 and 2010. He was last seen toiling in
 2012 for something called the Las Vegas Locomotives of the UFL as a backup to
 starter Chase Clement.
 Henne arrived in South Florida and showed early promise, but the relationship
 with the Dolphins soured as his record sagged to 13-18 and ultimately led to
 his not being re-signed for 2012. He landed up the coast in Jacksonville and
 was 1-5 for the Jaguars in relief of injured incumbent Blaine Gabbert.
 Ryan is 56-22 in 78 regular-season games since being anointed Atlanta's post-
 Vick messiah, but his 1-4 record in the postseason -- including a home-field
 loss in this month's NFC Championship Game -- has revived the whispers that
 "Matty Ice" remains a September-to-December commodity.
 As they all tune in Sunday, Flacco will become the second Delaware alum
 (following Rich Gannon in 2003) to quarterback a team in the Super Bowl. Only
 three other ex-Blue Hens -- Jeff Komlo (1979-83), Scott Brunner (1980-85) and
 Andy Hall (2005) -- have taken snaps in the NFL at all.
 "To have this opportunity is pretty cool," he 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. I think it's just one of those things you
 dream of when you are a little kid. You watch Joe Montana and those guys light
 them up in the Super Bowl. So to be here at this point is pretty special."
 Flacco's journey to Baltimore, where he's now won an NFL-record (for
 quarterbacks) eight road playoff games, was actually far less direct than a
 simple No. 18 selection would indicate.
 The Ravens began draft day in the No. 8 slot, but their affection for Ryan
 prompted talks with St. Louis for a possible move up to No. 2.
 The negotiations soured when the Rams demanded first-, second- and fourth-
 rounders in return, and, after Ryan went third to Atlanta, Baltimore traded
 that eighth position for Jacksonville's No. 26 pick, two third-rounders and a
 fourth-rounder, with hopes of landing Flacco.
 Then, upon hearing of the New York Jets' interest in their man, the Ravens
 shipped a third-rounder and a sixth-rounder to Houston to get back to No. 18
 overall, where the 6-foot-6 Audubon, N.J. native became head coach John
 Harbaugh's first draft choice after he succeeded Brian Billick.
 One round later, Harbaugh landed Ray Rice from Rutgers, and an offense long
 asked to merely stay out of Ray Lewis and Ed Reed's way was elevated to co-
 starring status.
 "They won those playoff games in large part because Joe Flacco stepped up on
 the big stage," said Peter Schmuck, a columnist for the Baltimore Sun. "They
 won because they delivered (a series of) balanced offensive performances in
 which Ray Rice averaged 100 yards and all the front-line receivers made big
 plays throughout."
 And regardless of Sunday's outcome in New Orleans, Flacco expects to be
 treated like a winner.
 The Super Bowl will be his final game under the contract he signed upon being
 drafted, which paid him $6.76 million this season. He was already rumored to
 be seeking a seven-year extension in the neighborhood of $14 million per year,
 and his performance in the prolonged playoff run as a No. 4 seed -- 853 yards,
 eight touchdowns, no interceptions -- likely does nothing to lower that
 He played coy during the on-air chat with Patrick, dryly responding to a query
 about whether the postseason results should enhance his compensation with a
 claim that the financial ball is actually in the court of general manager
 Ozzie Newsome.
 Incidentally, after the Ravens won the Super Bowl in 2000 -- with Newsome as
 vice president of player personnel -- they let quarterback Trent Dilfer leave
 via free agency rather than re-signing him.
 "You'd have to ask the guys in the front office that question," Flacco said.
 "It's not really my concern. My concern is with my teammates right now and
 making sure we go out there and play the best game that we can."
 01/29 12:07:28 ET

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