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Flacco begins collecting awards as Super Bowl MVP

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Flacco begins collecting awards as Super Bowl MVP

NEW ORLEANS (AP) Working on 90 minutes of sleep, Joe Flacco wore a day-old beard and a weary smile that wouldn't go away.

Super Bowl tradition deems that the game's MVP appear at a ceremony the following morning to shake hands with the commissioner of the NFL, accept the shiny trophy, pose for pictures and receive the keys to a new car. And so, after celebrating the Baltimore Ravens' 34-31 victory over the San Francisco 49ers into the early hours of Monday morning, Flacco dutifully fulfilled his obligation.

The quarterback's immediate reward for throwing three touchdown passes on Sunday night was a 2014 Corvette. In the months ahead, Flacco is almost assured of receiving a lucrative, long-term contract befitting his incredible performance during Baltimore's run to the NFL championship.

In the playoffs, Flacco had 11 TD passes and no interceptions, a feat NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell called ``extraordinary.''

``He was unflappable and brought his team to a Super Bowl level,'' Goodell said. ``His play represented that all the way through.''

Less than 12 hours after hoisting the Lombardi Trophy over his head amid a shower of purple confetti, Flacco still couldn't come to grips with what he and the Ravens had accomplished.

After throwing for three scores in the first half to stake the Ravens to a 21-6 lead, Flacco directed two scoring drives in the fourth quarter to help fend off a 49ers comeback. He was 22 for 33 for 287 yards.

``I'm pretty tired right now, and it hasn't sunken in,'' he said. ``It's just a surreal moment.''

With a parade scheduled for the team on Tuesday, Flacco planned to visit Disney World in Florida on Monday afternoon before heading home.

``I anticipate not getting very much sleep, but it's for all good reasons, man,'' he said. ``Unbelievable game. It was just awesome to be a part of it.''

After the game, Flacco shared a little secret with the rest of his family: He and his wife are expecting their second child. After the Ravens played San Francisco last season, he revealed their first child (a boy) was on the way.

Flacco almost assuredly has a big payday upcoming as well. His rookie contract ends after this season, and soon he and owner Steve Bisciotti will sit down to determine just how much a Super Bowl title will be worth. He could wind up with one of the biggest deals in NFL history, perhaps commanding somewhere in the neighborhood of $20 million a year.

``I'm pretty optimistic, but who knows?'' he said. ``This is a great organization, I love being here, great city. So I don't anticipate any problems.''

Part of Flacco's negotiating tactics might include raises for members of his offensive line.

``Tell you what, our offensive line has played very well since I've been here, but the last four games have been just unbelievable,'' he said. ``They're the reason that I'm standing here and we are Super Bowl champs.''

Before the Super Bowl, Bisciotti expressed confidence that Flacco would be the Ravens' quarterback of the future.

``We've never lost a great, great franchise player from the beginning,'' Bisciotti said. ``I'm just very comfortable that it will get done.''

The last time the Ravens won a Super Bowl, they dumped quarterback Trent Dilfer and brought in Elvis Grbac. A similar situation almost assuredly won't occur this time, in part because it would seem difficult to get someone deemed an upgrade from Flacco.

``Joe Flacco is the best quarterback in football right now,'' Ravens running back Ray Rice said.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh, who also attended the news conference Monday, recalled his first meeting with Flacco before the Ravens drafted him out of Delaware in the first round of the 2008 draft.

``Joe impressed me as a guy that was really was determined to be good and had a lot to prove,'' Harbaugh said. ``I just felt like he was a guy that was going to do whatever it took to be the best he could be. And that's proven to be true.''

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Wide receiver Willie Snead thriving with Ravens as man in the middle

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USA TODAY Sports

Wide receiver Willie Snead thriving with Ravens as man in the middle

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Willie Snead has a knack for weaving through a row of linebackers in the middle of the field before making a clutch catch for the Baltimore Ravens.

Such was the case last Sunday against Tennessee, when Snead squeezed between two defenders for a 24-yard gain on a third-and-17 from the Baltimore 15.

"He's on the ground, he makes the catch, he's getting pushed back to the ground, stepped all over, and he just gets up and gives the first-down signal right there in the guy's face," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "That's the kind of competitor he is. He's all ball, all the time."

Baltimore general manager Ozzie Newsome rarely chases restricted free agents, but he made an exception with Snead this past offseason after it became apparent that the receiver's three-year run in New Orleans was done. One of Drew Brees' favorite targets in 2015 and 2016, Snead began last season with a three-game suspension for violating the NFL personal conduct policy. He then fought a hamstring injury and finished with just eight catches for 92 yards and no touchdowns.

Armed with a two-year, $10.4 million contract, Snead was delighted to arrive in Baltimore last April.

"Last year just left a really bitter taste in my mouth, the organization and how everything was handled," Snead said Tuesday. "To be a part of this organization was just a breath of fresh air. I wanted to go somewhere where I'm wanted."

It couldn't have worked out better for Snead -- and the Ravens.

"To see that you were right, to see all that come together and him play so well, being exactly what you thought you were going to get, is very rewarding," Harbaugh said.

Snead was one of three free agent receivers signed by Newsome in an effort to enhance a passing game that sputtered in 2017. Snead is the possession receiver, Michael Crabtree provides an outside threat and John Brown is the speedster.

Snead and Crabtree are tied for the team lead with 30 catches. Brown has 21 receptions for a team-high 424 yards and three touchdowns.

"I don't have the physical ability like John Brown to run by you, and I'm not big and strong like Michael Crabtree," Snead observed, "so I have to work harder than everybody else just to stand out."

That's how it's always been for Snead, who finally finds himself in a place where his talent is acknowledged and appreciated.

"This is a guy that's been doubted his whole career -- high school, college and the NFL," Harbaugh said. "So I'm fine if they keep doubting him."

After starring as a quarterback at Muskegon Heights in Michigan, Snead played three years as a receiver at Ball State before going undrafted in 2014. He finally made it to the NFL the following year.

"Coming out of college, (people said) I left too early, I wasn't ready to play in the NFL," Snead recalled. "And in the NFL, it was, `Is he fast enough to separate? Can he make those plays in clutch situations?' I've always been doubted."

Not anymore.

"I'll tell you one thing, Willie comes Sunday ready to play," Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco said. "He's one of the toughest guys I've been around."

This Sunday, the Ravens (4-2) host the Saints (4-1). Snead insists this wasn't one of those games that he circled on the calendar.

"This is another team. I have to approach it that way just to stay focused," Snead said.

New Orleans coach Sean Payton has seen enough of Snead this season to know he's a threat with the ball, and without it.

"He has a tremendous amount of grit. You see him making plays on third down," Payton said. "He's an outstanding blocker. He'll come across in motion, he'll get to the point of attack in the run game, but he'll also find the holes in the zone and man-to-man coverages."

The 5-foot-11, 205-pound Snead has no problem mixing it up with anyone, large or small, at any spot on the field.

"He can go inside or outside, but man, he makes some -- scouts call them blood area -- catches," Harbaugh said. "In the middle, that's where he thrives."

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Dominant defense earns Ravens' Za'Darius Smith AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors

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Dominant defense earns Ravens' Za'Darius Smith AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors

The defensive performance on display by the Baltimore Ravens Sunday against the Tennessee Titans in a 21-0 shutout win was flat out historic. So historic that it's earned linebacker Za'Darius Smith AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors.

A franchise-record 11 sacks were laid on quarterback Marcus Mariota during the Week 6 matchup, with Smith leading the way with three of them.   

So far this season the 26-year-old has 20 combined tackles, 5.5 sacks, and one forced fumble. As someone who is in the final year of his rookie NFL contract, he's certainly proving he is worthy of getting paid this offseason. 

"It feels great, man. It's big," Smith said of the honor during media availability Wednesday. "I know when I first found out I called my mom and she was already looking at it. But I called her and she was trying to congratulate me and was like 'who would've ever thought the guy that played one year of high school football would be where he at now and making so many goals.'"

But earning AFC Defensive Player of the Week isn't the only goal Smith has in mind. His performance through the first six weeks and assisting the No. 1 ranked scoring defense is just a stepping stone to the ultimate honor.

"I was telling her, 'Ma you know this is a good self-goal but my main goal is to get us to the Super Bowl.'" 

The road to the Super Bowl for Smith and the Ravens continues this Sunday vs. Drew Brees and the Saints. 

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