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Durable Flacco gives Ravens edge against Steelers

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Durable Flacco gives Ravens edge against Steelers

OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) If a Super Bowl ring is necessary for an NFL quarterback to earn elite status, then Joe Flacco has some work to do before joining the ranks.

If durability, victories and playoff appearances are the necessary attributes, then Flacco - the leading passer in Baltimore Ravens history - has few peers.

During a week in which the Pittsburgh Steelers (6-3) face the Ravens (7-2) without injured quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, Flacco is preparing to make his 74th consecutive start for Baltimore. He has never missed a game since being drafted in 2008, and under his direction, the Ravens are the only team to reach the postseason in each of the last four years.

No other quarterback in NFL history has ever led his team to the playoffs in his first four seasons.

``We've always said we think the world of Joe,'' Baltimore coach John Harbaugh said Wednesday. ``I personally hold him in the highest regard. We all believe in him, and we're excited to go into this game with him as our guy.''

And why not? Including the playoffs, Flacco has more wins over the past 4 1/2 years (63) than any other quarterback. Included in that total are two comeback victories in Pittsburgh, most notably last year's classic when Flacco connected with Torrey Smith for a 26-yard touchdown in the final minute of a 23-20 triumph.

Just as impressive is Flacco's ability to line up under center every week. Since the start of the 2008 season, only Eli Manning (129) and Phillip Rivers (105) have more consecutive starts among NFL quarterbacks. Tom Brady is a distant fourth with 57.

``I haven't played too long yet, but you want to show up for your teammates every Sunday,'' Flacco said. ``You do everything to make sure that happens.''

The Ravens have confidence in backup Tyrod Taylor, but Harbaugh will do whatever it takes to keep Flacco healthy.

Well, almost.

``My wife rides horses and she says when a horse throws you, you're supposed to kind of lean forward, grab the neck and then when you jump off, you're supposed to roll to take away the momentum out of it. We have not worked on that drill with Joe,'' Harbaugh said with a grin. ``But he is durable. I think he's just a tough guy and we've protected him over the years.''

No one is prepared to compare Flacco to Cal Ripken, who put together a major league record run of 2,632 consecutive games with the hometown Baltimore Orioles. But Flacco's streak is impressive enough to bring up the question as to whether there have ever been any close calls.

``The toughest was back whenever we beat New England in that (January 2010) playoff game,'' Flacco said, recalling a deep hip and thigh bruise. ``I never thought I wasn't going to go, but I definitely had a tough time moving around that week. At times at practice it was tough to keep my legs underneath me. I could drop back and throw pretty comfortable, but moving around was tough.''

Flacco didn't have to do much that game except hand the ball to Ray Rice, who ran for 159 yards in a 33-14 victory. But there have been other games when Flacco had to carry load, such as last week against Oakland when he passed for 341 yards and three touchdowns. The quarterback took a seat during the fourth quarter of the 55-20 rout, but there have been plenty of Sundays when he was knocked on the rear of his pants after taking a tough hit in the pocket.

Every time, though, Flacco bounced back.

``Joe's tough. I don't want to go into weight room numbers, but the quarterback is actually pretty strong,'' Rice said. ``Our goal as an offensive group is to not let Joe get hit. We take pride in that. But even when he does get hit, I always look back and check on him and he's getting up and ready to roll.

``It says something about our quarterback. He's really unprotected. They say the running back position is tough, but I get to brace for some of those hits. I can protect my body. Usually when you get a hit on the quarterback, it's a free shot. He's taken a few of them but has been able to bounce back.''

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Ravens agree to terms with first-round pick Hayden Hurst

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USA TODAY Sports

Ravens agree to terms with first-round pick Hayden Hurst

The Ravens have their entire 2018 draft class locked up.

The team agreed to terms with first-round pick Hayden Hurst, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

Hurst's rookie contract - like all first-round picks - is a four-year deal with a team option of a fifth year. According to the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the 25th overall pick is due $11.1 million. 

The 24-year old, who was a walk on at South Carolina at 21-years old after being drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2012, finished his three-year career with 100 receptions, 1,281 yards and three touchdowns.

Standing at 6-foot-3, Hurst will be a nice addition to the TE corps with Nick Boyle and third-round draft pick Mark Andrews. 

Fellow first-round pick Lamar Jackson signed his rookie contract on June 5th.

Training camp kicks off for the Ravens July 19th. 

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Ravens experimenting with getting Joe Flacco and Lamar Jackson on field at same time

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Ravens experimenting with getting Joe Flacco and Lamar Jackson on field at same time

Since drafting Lamar Jackson, the Ravens have made it clear that Joe Flacco is their starter. That doesn't mean they're not experimenting with having them both on the field at the same time, however. 

During this week's minicamp, the team has been lining Jackson up at multiple positions. 

"Gosh, I sure like him out there helping us," coach John Harbaugh said of Jackson during Tuesday's minicamp, via ESPN.com.

"If you put two quarterbacks on the field at once, what options does it create for our offense? That's what we're trying to figure out."

While at Louisville, Jackson rushed for 4,132 yards and 50 touchdowns in three seasons. That's more rushing yards than No. 2 overall pick Saquon Barkley. That unique skill set could be the creative options the Ravens are looking for. 

While at the NFL Combine, however, Jackson refused to workout at any other position than QB. 

"I have a lot of fun seeing what they come up with and what they're going to come up with next," Jackson said. "We'll see where it goes. You have to use your good players."

The Ravens are already viewing Jackson as one of those 'good players.' 

"Once he gets out of the pocket, it's like watching a young Michael Vick," LB C.J. Mosley said after minicamp practice. "It's amazing to watch. When you're defending him, you just have to act like you're tagging off -- you don't want to be on the highlight reel."

Harbaugh has alluded to the fact that the rookie will be active on game days, just exactly how they get the most out of him is what's in play.

"There's a lot of considerations that go into that," Harbaugh said of using two QBs at the once. "Everybody has an opinion. I've read a few. You want to find a way to get the most out of all your guys."

While Flacco isn't the fasted QB in the league, he has shown glimpses of running ability in the past. Figuring out how to utilize Flacco when Jackson is under center is where things will get interesting.

Interesting - as long as it works - is what Ravens fans have been searching for over the last several seasons. 

"Joe has to be able to do other things if [Jackson is] throwing the ball," Harbaugh said. "It gets the creative juices flowing for our offensive coaches, and they've worked hard on that."

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