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Monday, March 31, 2014
Criticism of Joe Flacco reaches new heights

By Jamison Hensley

Criticizing Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco for throwing 22 interceptions last season is fair game. Criticizing him for failing to connect on deep throws last season is valid, as well.

But criticizing Flacco for not conducting private workouts with his wide receivers by now is just off the mark.

It's difficult to question Flacco's commitment to the Ravens. He attends every voluntary workout in the spring, and he's started every game in his six-year NFL career, even when his wife delivered a baby hours before kickoff.

Joe Flacco
Joe Flacco has come under some fire for not yet gathering his pass-catchers for extra throwing sessions this offseason.
All of this seems forgotten if you turn on sports talk radio in Baltimore or read a message board. There, the chatter is about why Flacco isn't spending more time at Ravens headquarters.

If you think this shows a lack of leadership on Flacco's part, you must have a short memory. Middle linebacker Ray Lewis, who is considered the best leader in team history, would regularly show up only once in the spring, and that was for a mandatory minicamp.

For the record, wide receiver Torrey Smith confirmed this weekend that throwing sessions with Flacco will happen sometime this month. The Ravens wish Ray Rice's legal issue could be resolved so easily.

Ravens officials obviously want to see Flacco take the initiative and put in the extra work outside of the scheduled team activities. That's the responsibility that comes when a team gives a player $52 million in guaranteed money. Coach John Harbaugh said last week that these private workouts are important.

Flacco, though, is paid to be a quarterback, not an event planner. The challenge is finding days when everyone can attend these workouts. Wide receiver Marlon Brown and fullback Kyle Juszczyk are in school. Wide receiver Steve Smith is busy with three children in Charlotte, N.C., and his wife is expecting this summer. Wide receiver Aaron Mellette hasn't fully recovered from knee surgery. It makes no sense to have a workout if Torrey Smith, Dennis Pitta and Jacoby Jones are the only ones who show up.

Having these extra throwing sessions with Flacco can't hurt, especially for timing and chemistry. Let's just not pretend that they're guaranteed to lead to successful seasons. Mark Sanchez regularly had his "Jets West" workouts in California, and that didn't turn out so well. Eli Manning was "on fire" during his workouts with Giants receivers at Duke last year, and he threw 27 interceptions last season.

Based on how much has been reported about the scheduling of these workouts with Flacco (articles have been written after Pitta, Harbaugh and Torrey Smith all talked about it), there will certainly be updates on how great and instrumental the throwing sessions were. In the big picture, the real work begins when Flacco and his teammates get on the field with new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak in May. By that time, I'm sure there will be something else to criticize about Flacco.