SAN DIEGO -- Known by most players in the locker room as the younger brother of Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, undrafted rookie free agent tight end Mike Flacco carved out a name for himself with more consistent play the last few weeks of the preseason.
And the result is that the 27-year-old might find a home with the San Diego Chargers for the long-term after final roster cut downs this weekend.
Considered a major project, Flacco is fifth on the depth chart at perhaps the most talented position group on San Diego's roster. He has a chance of sticking with the organization either on the active roster or the practice squad, depending on what happens against the Arizona Cardinals on Thursday.
Flacco benefits from having a position coach in Pete Metzelaars who played tight end for 16 years in the NFL, along with a future Hall of Famer in Antonio Gates and a talented breakout candidate in Ladarius Green to watch every day in practice.
"This is a great place to learn how to play tight end," Flacco said. "Unfortunately, there's some good tight ends in front of me on the depth chart. But between the coaching and guys in front of you to watch, it's a great place to learn."
Signed as an undrafted rookie free agent in May after moving on from minor league baseball, Flacco struggled mightily during his early audition with the Chargers.
Some of Flacco's foibles during training camp included tripping over grass blades and falling down on a simple out route, and getting pancaked trying to block middle linebacker Reggie Walker during inside running drills.
As they say in football, sometimes you're the hammer, sometimes you're the nail -- and Flacco was the latter more times than not during the first week of training camp.
But something changed the last few weeks -- Flacco got better. And it showed in games, including a nice catch on a seam route for an 18-yard gain against Dallas in the exhibition opener, and better consistency blocking in the run game against San Francisco last week.
"The longer you're in a system, and for me just doing football stuff like blocking guys and running routes, the better you're going to get at it," Flacco said. "So the more reps I get, the better I feel."
Along with the improved performance, Flacco also has something else working for him: potential. At 6-foot-5 and 251 pounds, Flacco ran a 4.68-second, 40-yard time at his pro day after one year playing football at Division II New Haven. He posted a 9.7-foot broad jump and benched pressed 225 pounds 17 times.
Gates understands Flacco's tough transition, having done it himself over a decade ago as a Division I basketball player at Kent State making the switch to pro football.
"I had the same situation," Gates said. "So you have to understand the potential, and that you have to give people time. But he started making plays and understanding defenses. And I think that's what it is for him, and why he's still here.
"I've seen him progress over time and constantly getting better, and that's what it's all about. Some guys level off and stay the same, but he constantly got better every day."
Flacco said he's been in communication with older brother Joe during training camp, with conversations that include mundane topics like comparing practice times and daily schedules.
Flacco said he's looking forward to one last chance to show what he can do on Thursday against the Cardinals at Qualcomm Stadium.
"Just this whole experience has been great for me," Flacco said. "I didn't quit baseball to necessarily pursue this. I stopped playing because I just felt my opportunity there had passed. And I was fortunate enough to have this on the table, and ended up here."