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Flacco shoulders blame for Ravens' 3-game slide

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Flacco shoulders blame for Ravens' 3-game slide

OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) Joe Flacco has fumbled three times and thrown three interceptions in his last three games, each of which the Baltimore Ravens have lost.

Flacco understands that an NFL quarterback often receives an inordinate amount of criticism in defeat and perhaps too much credit for a victory. In this case, however, he accepts full responsibility for Baltimore's longest skid since 2009.

``All of it,'' Flacco said Wednesday. ``It starts with the quarterback.''

It's tough to argue. Flacco's fumble set up the tying score in a loss to Pittsburgh on Dec. 2. A fumble and an interception in the third quarter led to two Washington field goals in an overtime defeat on Dec. 9, and last Sunday he had two first-half turnovers in a 34-17 drubbing by Denver.

Flacco can only hope the lasting image of his 2012 season isn't the one of him lying face down on the turf following his futile chase of Chris Harris, who went 98 yards with an interception to put the Broncos up 17-0 at halftime.

Flacco laying prone on the goal line, agonizing over his critical mistake, typified a season that has turned decidedly flat.

If the Ravens (9-5) are to pull out of their tailspin and make some noise in the postseason, Flacco will have to right himself in a hurry. He's got no doubt it's going to happen, starting this Sunday at home against the defending world champion New York Giants (8-6). Baltimore can clinch its second straight AFC North title with a win.

``I'm confident. Our team is confident,'' he said. ``These are tough situations, but it's about how you stand up. You can't blink. I don't know if we've necessarily been in this kind of situation in the past, but we've dealt with things that are similar and we know how to move forward and push through.''

Since taking over the starting job out of training camp in his rookie season, Flacco has endured only two three-game losing streaks. So this is rather unusual territory for the Ravens career leader in yards passing, touchdown passes and completion percentage.

``I hope we go out there and play fast, physical and smart and I hope we win football games,'' he said. ``I don't hope. I know that's what we're going to do. It's what we've done here.''

In spite of his recent struggle, Flacco deserves credit for helping the Ravens reach the playoffs in five straight seasons. Flacco is the only quarterback in NFL history to reach the postseason in each of his first four years, and now he's 5 for 5.

``I'm pretty proud of it, but it's not something that I or we think about on a regular basis,'' he said.

Flacco may not be among the elite NFL quarterbacks, but he's earned respect from his teammates and the opposition.

``He's a confident player, tough as nails,'' Baltimore offensive tackle Michael Oher said.

``I see a good young quarterback who's growing in the system that John (Harbaugh) and his staff developed in Baltimore,'' Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. ``And he seems to be getting better all the time.''

Flacco has never been to the Super Bowl, but he has twice taken Baltimore to the AFC title game. Last year, he nearly engineered an upset of the New England Patriots in the conference championship but was undone by a dropped pass and a botched field-goal try.

``He makes a lot of plays and has turned into a guy who's a good leader,'' said Giants quarterback Eli Manning, a two-time Super Bowl winner. ``Last year he was right there, a play away from making the Super Bowl.''

It's impossible to determine how this season will end, but at this juncture the Ravens don't look the part of a Super Bowl contender. Not yet, anyway.

Flacco's struggle against Pittsburgh and Washington played a role in Harbaugh's decision last week to dump offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. Now it's up to Flacco to make the quick adjustment to Jim Caldwell, who called the plays against Denver.

``We've had to go through a lot of adversity this year, and Joe being Joe, he's responded to it really well,'' Ravens running back Ray Rice said. ``It's not easy going through a change this late in the season, but the way he's handled it, he's still Joe. This week gives us a great opportunity to bounce back. Everything that we want is still in front of us. Quarterback is the toughest position in the game, and I just think with that amount of pressure he's handled it really well. Joe is still a great quarterback. He's our quarterback, and we're going to defend him to the end.''

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Ravens cancel Saturday's open practice at M&T Bank Stadium

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USA Today Sports

Ravens cancel Saturday's open practice at M&T Bank Stadium

The Baltimore Ravens cancelled Saturday night's free open practice at M&T Bank Stadium due to a forecast that calls for heavy rain and inclement weather.

There is no official word from the team on whether this practice will be resheduled, but it seems like Sunday may be an option, even though there's rain in the forecast then too.

Ravens fans who were looking to see first-round draft pick and potential future starting quarterback Lamar Jackson will have to wait for another day. His presence at training camp, an inevitable competition with the incumbent, Joe Flacco, and potential two-quarterback packages involving both of them are set to be some of the biggest storylines of Ravens camp this summer.

As a Heisman Trophy winner, Jackson was one of the most dynamic players in college football during his time at Louisville. If he can replicate that kind of performance in the NFL, he will be at plenty more training camp sessions for Ravens fans to watch.

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After breakout 2017 season, Ravens running back Alex Collins isn't getting too comfortable

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After breakout 2017 season, Ravens running back Alex Collins isn't getting too comfortable

This time last year, running back Alex Collins wasn't a part of the Baltimore Ravens.

After being released by the Seattle Seahawks at the end of the 2017 preseason, the Ravens placed the 23-year-old on their practice squad, and by Week 2, Collins was already making plays.

As the season progressed, Collins found himself as the Ravens' top running back. He finished 2017 as the team's leading rusher with 973 yards while Javorius "Buck" Allen followed behind him with 591 yards.

If the 2018 NFL season began today, Collins would likely be the Ravens' starter, which is quite ironic considering the fate of his 2017 preseason.

"I always go back to where I started and where I am now, and I use that as my motivation," Collins said after Thursday's training camp practice.

"No matter the day, no matter how tired I am, I think to myself, at this time last year, I didn’t know my position, where I was, where I’d end up. So just having that security behind it is definitely my motivation to keep it this way and keep pushing forward and keep trying to get better instead of being complacent.”

Over the course of 15 games, Collins proved he had the strength and speed to make an impact on the team after Danny Woodhead suffered a hamstring injury on the first drive of the Ravens' Week 1 game and Kenneth Dixon sat out the entire season with a torn meniscus. 

While job security is something we all strive for, Collins isn't getting too comfortable with the hierarchy. 

“I don’t want to say necessarily ‘comfortable,’ because when I use that word, it makes me feel like I’m too relaxed and lackadaisical," Collins said.

"I’m more focused. I don’t want to get comfortable. I don’t want the team or our group to get comfortable, because we just want to get better every day. So, in the position I am, it’s a great feeling, but I’m always pushing myself to be better.”

While Collins has set personal goals for himself – like a 1,000-yard season – he is equally as focused on making the Ravens backfield one of the best groups in the National Football League. 

“I expect that," Collins said on being the Ravens' starter.

"I would hope that all the other running backs expect [to be the starter] as well, and that’s what kind of drives our group – when we all know that we have that capability to be the No. 1 guy, and we’re out competing and push each other and try to be the best. No matter who’s out there during the game, you’ll see a productive play out of that person. So, I have that mindset. I want to be the guy. I have that fire in me, and I hope [that is] as well as the other running backs, as I encouraged them as well.”

Collins noted that he's coming into training camp a bit heavier. He added five pounds to his 200-pound frame "just to see how that feels," but is still maintaining the stamina and strength he's always had. 

Collins – who was one of several veterans released from practice early as the team begins to adjust their way into the extended preseason – finished his media availability with a friendly warning to fantasy football owners: "Draft me now before it’s too late, guys."

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