A year ago, Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco was gingerly working his way back from knee surgery.
Now, Flacco is attempting to show his younger teammates a thing or two during the initial phase of Ravens' offseason training program.
"I'm trying to run the 23-year-olds into the ground — if that's possible for a 6-6 quarterback to do," the 10-year veteran said Wednesday. "It's not, but I'll try. It's all good."
Flacco tore two ligaments in his left knee in the waning moments of a victory over St. Louis on Nov. 22, 2015. After surgery, he spent much of the offseason rehabilitating the injury before finally getting back behind center in Baltimore's third preseason game.
Flacco ended up playing in all 16 games, but his spotty performance was one reason why the Ravens finished 8-8 and missed the playoffs. Although he threw for 4,317 yards and 20 touchdowns, Flacco tossed 15 interceptions — second-most of his career — and was sacked 33 times.
"We just didn't get the job done. It starts with me," he acknowledged.
He refused to blame the knee for his uneven play.
"It felt good all year round, especially come Sunday," Flacco said. "Mentally, it wasn't an issue for me. My knee was never a thought when I was out there on the field."
Still, he hopes that hitting the ground running in April will pay dividends this fall.
"Everything will be better," Flacco said. "You can just attack it with a little bit more oomph. You're starting with a better foundation, and that always helps."
Now 32, Flacco is five seasons removed from being Super Bowl MVP in Baltimore's 34-31 win over San Francisco. He remains the most significant piece of a pass-happy offense that produced nearly three times more yards through the air than on the ground.
So he'd better be good if Baltimore is to have a shot at avoiding a third straight year without reaching the playoffs. If this week's workouts are any indication, Flacco will be up to the task.
"There's going to be some ups and downs throughout a season with any injury, let alone an ACL for a quarterback," safety Eric Weddle said. "He's going to 10 times better, being a year removed from that injury. Seeing him run, and seeing the effort he's putting in lifting, there's no hiccup in his running form. He's getting after it."
Flacco wore a brace over his knee last year, and intends to do so again in 2017.
"I wasn't mad at myself for getting hurt and not having one on," he said, "but if I was to get hurt again and not have one on, it would probably be one of those things I'd regret."
Flacco found it awkward to slide on the turf at the end of his infrequent forays downfield, and will seek to find a brace that makes it easier. Then again, he won't have to slide if he can rumble all the way to the end zone.
"Hopefully we can some more scrambles out of him," receiver Mike Wallace said. "Maybe he can go 50 or 60 yards this year. We'll see about that."
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