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Joe Flacco: a Blue Hen with a golden arm

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Joe Flacco: a Blue Hen with a golden arm

OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) Maybe Delaware is the new Quarterback U.

When Joe Flacco takes the field with the Baltimore Ravens against San Francisco, he'll be the second former Blue Hens quarterback to start a Super Bowl. Rich Gannon was the first with Oakland 10 years ago.

That's more than powerhouses USC, Texas, Oklahoma and Florida combined. It's one more than Miami, Michigan, Tennessee, Penn State, Florida State, Syracuse, Nebraska and Pitt.

Stanford, UCLA, BYU, Maryland and Washington State also have two. Only Notre Dame, Alabama, Purdue and California have three.

Quite an impressive feat for a second-tier football college in the second-smallest state in the U.S.

It's a good thing Flacco didn't turn to baseball when he hoped or he may not have even made it to the NFL.

The story goes like this. After his junior season at Delaware, Flacco went to then-coach K.C. Keeler and told him he'd like to pitch for the Blue Hens' baseball team in the spring. Keeler and other coaches persuaded him to concentrate on football.

Over the years, the context of that conversation has been reported different ways. Flacco set the record straight this week, making it clear he simply wanted to play two sports and wasn't considering quitting football.

``K.C. misrepresents that,'' Flacco said. ``I just wanted to play baseball because I liked baseball. I never was giving up on football. I always had a lot of confidence in my ability there. I just wanted to have a little bit of fun.''

Flacco had an outstanding senior year and led Delaware to the FCS championship game against Appalachian State. He wowed Baltimore's scouting department in a long workout before the draft and ended up being selected by the Ravens with the No. 18 overall pick in 2008.

Since then, Flacco has done things no other quarterback has accomplished during the Super Bowl era.

Flacco is the first quarterback to lead his team to a playoff victory in each of his first five seasons. His six postseason wins on the road rank first and he leads the league with 62 victories since 2008.

``I'm really happy for him and as a former Blue Hen, I'm really proud,'' said Gannon, who was the NFL MVP in 2002 when he led the Raiders to the Super Bowl, a loss to Tampa Bay.

``His career is off to a terrific start and you can only imagine what will happen next Sunday if he's able to get the job done and win a world championship.''

Flacco has padded his already remarkable resume this month. In three playoff games, he's thrown eight touchdown passes and not a single interception. His biggest achievement, though, is beating Peyton Manning and Tom Brady on the road in consecutive games to help the Ravens win their second AFC championship.

``This isn't just instant success,'' Gannon said. ``You go back and study the guy and this has happened over the last five years. He has some rare talent. He can really throw the ball and he has good mobility for a guy his size. He's going to get better and the team around him is going to get better.''

The 28-year-old Flacco grew up in South Jersey and starred at Audubon High School, a short ride from Philadelphia. He went to Pittsburgh at first, but transferred to Delaware after redshirting his freshman year and playing in just three games in 2004. Flacco didn't get a transfer exception from then-Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt so he had to pay his way to Delaware.

If he has any student loans bills remaining, Flacco can easily pay those off after this season. He's eligible to become a free agent and surely will get a lucrative contract from the Ravens.

All he cares about now is hoisting that Vince Lombardi Trophy on Feb. 3.

``I think it's just one of those things you dream of when you are a little kid,'' he said. ``You watch Joe Montana and those guys light them up in the Super Bowl. So, to be here at this point is pretty special.''

Gannon exchanged text messages with Flacco before the AFC title game at New England last week and spoke to him several times during the season. As a broadcaster for CBS Sports and SiriusXM NFL Radio, Gannon has covered many of Flacco's games and knows him well.

``I don't think Joe cares about individual awards,'' Gannon said. ``He's always been a team guy and they wouldn't be there without him. I think he's misunderstood. A lot of people think he's aloof or he's not into it, but a lot of young players don't like to deal with the media. He's ultra-competitive, he's become one of the leaders of that football team and he's done an outstanding job.''

And to think Flacco went to Delaware, a school that's produced fewer than 25 NFL players and only five were quarterbacks. Scott Brunner, Jeff Komlo and Andy Hall are the other three.

Flacco and teammate Gino Gradkowski, a backup offensive lineman, will be the fourth and fifth former Blue Hens to play in a Super Bowl. Gannon, Ivory Sully (Los Angeles Rams) and Ben Patrick (Arizona Cardinals) were on losing teams.

``To have this opportunity is pretty cool,'' Flacco said. ``There are a lot of people in this league that can't say they've ever gotten to this point, so it definitely feels good to get here.''

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Ravens vs. Colts preseason: Date, time, TV channel, live stream, how to watch

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Ravens vs. Colts preseason: Date, time, TV channel, live stream, how to watch

After 10 days and two testy joint practices with the Colts, Ravens football is back.

The guys are in Indianapolis to take on the Colts in their third preseason game of the season. You can expect to see Lamar Jackson and RGIII getting more reps in, but it's unclear how much of Andrew Luck we'll see after he missed the entire 2017 season with a shoulder injury.

While the joint practices brought a few brawls, head coach John Harbaugh has been nothing but impressed with how his team has been handling training camp and the preseason thus far.

"I think about as good as [I’ve] ever seen,” Harbaugh said via the Ravens' website. “I’d have to say our best camp in terms of guys focused on improving every day and becoming one percent better at what they do from one day to the next and keep building on that. That’s what I’m proud of.”

Ahead of their matchup, here's everything you need to know to watch.

Ravens vs. Colts Preseason Game:

Who: Baltimore Ravens vs. Indianapolis Colts 

What: Preseason Week 3

When: Monday, Aug. 20, 2018, 8:00 p.m. ET

Where: Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, Indiana 

TV Channel: ESPN

Live Stream: WatchESPN

Radio: WBAL New Radio 1090 and 98Rock, ESPN Radio

Weather: 78 degrees, scattered thunderstorms

Preseason Schedule:

Hall of Fame Game: Thurs., 8/2 vs. Chicago Bears. 8:00 p.m. (W: 17-16) 

Week 1: Thurs., 8/9, vs. Los Angeles Rams, 7:30 p.m. (W: 33-7)

Week 2: Mon., 8/20, at Indianapolis Colts (Monday Night Football, ESPN), 8:00 p.m. 

Week 3: Sat., 8/25 at Miami Dolphins, 7:00 p.m.

Week 4: Thurs., 8/30 vs. Washington Redskins, 7:30 p.m.

Ravens 2018 Regular Season Schedule:

Week 1: Sun., 9/9 vs. Bills, 1:00 p.m.

Week 2: Thur., 9/13 @ Bengals, 8:20 p.m.

Week 3: Sun., 9/23 vs. Broncos. 1:00 p.m.

Week 4: Sun., 9/30 @ Steelers, 8:20 p.m.

Week 5: Sun., 10/7 @ Browns, 1:00 p.m.

Week 6: Sun., 10/14 @ Titans, 4:25 p.m.

Week 7: Sun., 10/21 vs. Saints, 4:05 p.m.

Week 8: Sun., 10/28 @ Panthers, 1:00 p.m.

Week 9: Sun., 11/4 vs. Steelers, 1:00 p.m.

Week 10:  BYE week

Week 11: Sun., 11/18 vs. Bengals, 1:00 p.m.

Week 12: Sun., 11/25 vs. Raiders, 1:00 p.m.

Week 13: Sun., 12/2 @ Falcons, 1:00 p.m.

Week 14: Sun., 12/9 @ Chiefs, 1:00 p.m.

Week 15: Sun., 12/16 vs. Buccaneers, 1:00 p.m.

Week 16: Sat., 12/22 or Sunday 12/23 @ Chargers, TBD

Week 17: Sun., 12/30 vs. Browns, 1:00 p.m.

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A Norwegian soccer player turned kicker, Kaare Vedvik fighting for chance on Ravens roster

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A Norwegian soccer player turned kicker, Kaare Vedvik fighting for chance on Ravens roster

Twenty-four-year-old Kaare Vedvik didn't watch his first football game until seven years ago, and now he's fighting for a spot on the Ravens' special teams roster.

Raised in Norway, Vedvik got his first glance at the game when the Super Bowl was being broadcast on Norwegian television for the first time. 

"It seemed like a really, really interesting sport," Vedvik said via The Baltimore Sun. "It was a sport I was never able to try growing up. I loved any sport that was fun, and football seemed really, really fun."

Fun enough to get the competitive soccer player to be an exchange student in the United States during his junior year of high school to test out the game of football. Vedvik returned to Norway for his senior year but impressed college recruiters enough at a Kohl's Kicking Camp in Texas that he was eventually recruited to play at Marshall University in West Virginia.

Staying in Norway would have meant giving up on sports entirely as school becomes more difficult and sports are no longer offered. Vedvik wasn't ready for that.

While at Marshall, Vedvik played in 38 games in four years as both a punter and kicker. He punted 59 times for 2,597 yards — averaging 44 yards — with 26 of them inside the 20-yard line. Vedvik once punted a 92-yarder, making it the seventh-longest punt in FBS history and the longest in 45 years. He ranked in the Top 10 for fewest punt return yards and averaged 63.6 yards-per-kickoff. 

After a private workout with Ravens special teams coordinator/associate head coach Jerry Rosburg, Vedvik became one of 14 Ravens undrafted free agents and has impressed thus far hitting 70 and 67-yard field goals in training camp practices. And in Thursday's preseason game vs. the Rams, Vedvik hit a 56-yard field goal.

"Learning how to kick field goals, the biggest thing for me was to stop swiping across and trying to kick a straighter ball," Vedcik said. "That’s the biggest difference: In soccer, you’re trying to curve balls around a defender."

While Vedvik's chances of dethroning the most accurate kicker in NFL history in Justin Tucker and 12-year veteran punter Sam Koch are slim, he could very well make an impact elsewhere. 

“The guys who are able to do that, they’re just good athletes in general, and Kaare is a good athlete,” Tucker said of the 6-foot-3, 210-pound Norwegian. “He hasn’t played a lot of football. He has plenty of ability.”

“When he came in, he’s got such a strong leg," Koch added. "You’ve got to have a strong leg in order to get looked at. He’s got a lot of talent. It’s one of those things — bringing him in, honing his skills and seeing what he can do from here.”

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