OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The conventional thinking is the pressure has been ratcheted up on quarterback Joe Flacco. How could it not? The Super Bowl MVP signed a six-year, $120.6 million deal Monday to become the highest-paid player in NFL history.
Not so, Flacco says. You actually start to believe him after watching him during his 25-minute news conference Monday. He was relaxed. He was engaging. He was a comedian at times. Flacco is usually laid back, but it's hard to remember a time when Flacco was this loose.
"It was pretty uneventful, to tell you the truth," Flacco said of signing of a contract that pays him more annually than Drew Brees and Peyton Manning. "It's not really a big deal. Our goal is to win the Super Bowl. That's always been one of my goals. It's never necessarily been a goal of mine to get paid like this. It's just what comes with the job."
The theme of Flacco's news conference was gaining the respect -- more so than the money -- from the organization. It's hard to believe anyone saying this until you take a look at Flacco's path to this point.
He transferred to the University of Delaware because Pittsburgh chose to go with Tyler Palko as its starter. In one of my first interviews with Flacco, he talked about having a chip on his shoulder after coming from what he called the minor leagues of college football.
Another turning point for Flacco was just last summer, when he declined a contract that would've paid him between $16 million and $17 million per season. Why didn't Flacco sign it? "I thought I was worth more," Flacco said bluntly Monday.
In Flacco's eyes, there was more pressure on him last year because of the contract. Now, there's a sense of accomplishment. He always showed confidence. The difference Monday was he felt justified.
Here are some selected moments from Flacco's news conference:
On what goes through his mind when he looks at the amount of money on his contract: “Nothing. Usually a smile ends up cracking on the other end."
On running back Ray Rice saying the next dinner is on Flacco: “He keeps wanting to try to get the car that I won for the MVP [of the Super Bowl]. He keeps trying to buy it off me. Maybe if I can sell it to him for like way over the price that it actually is, then [he] can get it."
On if he is going to do anything fun with the money: “I doubt it. I’m just going to look at it and be able to smile a little bit."
On any future endorsements with his increased status: "If anybody can come up to me and give me deals that I don't have to really do anything ... and give me a little equity in the company, I'm cool with that. When you get a $120 million contract, you don't need to be searching for too much money. If people are going to get me off my couch -- it already takes a lot. It’s going to take a little bit extra now.”
On if he was serious about running out on the field and tackling Ted Ginn at the end of the Super Bowl: "I saw that people were kind of getting a little mad at me for that. There was four seconds left in the game, and that was probably the only time all year that I was really, really nervous. I thought it was a pretty funny thing to kind of get my mind off of the fact that there is a possibility that he could run this thing back. I’m sure that if I did do that, I’m sure that they could probably give the guy a touchdown. I don’t know. But it’s the Super Bowl, man. I’m doing anything I can to win that game."
On if he is going to do anything to celebrate the deal: "I’m going to drive home tonight and just go to dinner with a couple of people close to me. I’m not going to do anything crazy. That’s about all the celebration that I can take is kind of going out and enjoying a nice little time with the people that are close to me, and just kind of looking at each other saying, ‘Man, can you really believe where we are?’"
On taking the risk of not signing before last season: "Winning the Super Bowl and winning the Super Bowl MVP doesn't make me as valuable as I am. If we didn't win the Super Bowl this year, I still think I'm worth the same and I still think I'm the same person to this organization. It may not be seen that way, but that's the bottom line. I still give the team the best chance to win moving forward. It makes it a little bit easier for Steve (Bisciotti, Ravens owner) to reach into his pockets having said we won a Super Bowl. People don't to have to look at him as crazy as they may have if he would've given me this much last year. That was my feeling all along. When guys are drafted in the first round and win football games for you, quarterbacks like that, when it's time for those guys to get paid, they usually become the highest-paid guy in the league. I know this isn't going to hold up for that long. But that's not a priority of mine to be the highest-paid guy. The priority of mine was to get that respect that I feel now from this organization."