For Joe Flacco, major contract brings major scrutiny

May 29, 2013|Kevin Cowherd

Joe Flacco got a taste this week of how it'll be all season long.

Privacy? Gone. Flying under the national radar? Ha, forget it. Having every move you make on and off the field analyzed relentlessly until you just want to scream?

Oh, yeah. There will be a lot of that.

The Joe Linta flap was just the beginning. Now the Ravens quarterback gets the kind of suffocating scrutiny that comes with leading your team to a Super Bowl championship and landing a six-year, $120.6 million contract extension that makes you the NFL's highest-paid player — if only for about five minutes until Aaron Rodgers signed his new deal.

"One thing about Joe: nothing is going to change Joe," John Harbaugh said last week. "Joe is going to be who he is. I don't think a change in the roster is going to change Joe. A change in the contract isn't going to change Joe.

"Joe is Joe, and that's what you love about him."

Agreed. That's what I find so refreshing about Flacco. No matter what the media and fans want him to be, he stays his own man.

Reporters want him to be this chatty guy who rattles off anecdotes about NFL life and shares his deep feelings about his job. Not a chance. Flacco doesn't do anecdotes. Or feelings — of any depth.

Stick a TV camera or tape recorder in his face and he suddenly looks like a guy who's eaten a bad piece of fish.

The fans want him to be this fiery, rah-rah, kick-butt field general. But he's not that, either. He's laid-back, unflappable and focused. You want a snarling, cursing, finger-pointing Brett Favre-clone? That's not Flacco, either.

But as the Ravens go through their second organized team activity at The Castle this week, Flacco is discovering just how intense this new scrutiny will be.

Take this silly uproar about Joe Linta's remarks earlier this week.

Linta, of course, is Flacco's agent. And he did a pretty good job of making his client a rich man with that eye-popping, multi-year deal back in March.

Then Linta told USA Today last weekend that the Ravens were "dumb" for not signing Flacco before last season, when the two sides were only $1 million apart on base salary.

Linta says it was an innocuous remark from an agent defending his client against accusations that he was greedy and killing the Ravens' ability to sign other players with his huge deal.

But somehow it became this big national story. "Linta disses Ravens' front office! Calls organization 'dumb!'"

You would have thought the guy just spit in Ozzie Newsome's face. Or that he said something nasty about Pat Moriarty's mom, Moriarty being the Ravens' contract guru.

It probably wasn't the greatest choice of words on Linta's part. And after the words "dumb" and "Ravens" were splashed all over the country — because the NFL gets this monster year-round coverage now — Linta said lots of nice things about the team's front-office people and how much he respected them.

The Ravens haven't said anything publicly about Linta's comments. Oh, they can't be thrilled about being called "dumb," no matter the context. But I doubt it'll affect their dealings with Linta.

What was it the Corleones kept saying in "The Godfather?" "It's not personal, it's strictly business?" Yes, that's it's exactly, for both the Ravens and Linta.

Linta didn't return calls to his Connecticut office Wednesday. Not that I blame him for not wanting to re-hash the whole thing. I'd be sick of talking about it, too, if I were him.

As for Flacco, I see where the guy was forced to do damage control in the midst of the Ravens' latest practice sessions.

On the team's website Wednesday, Flacco distanced himself from Linta's "dumb" comments by saying: "Obviously, I don't feel that way. I think he probably got a little excited about it."

Flacco's certainly not the only big NFL star to face this kind of intense scrutiny, of course. Since signing his recent five-year, $110 million deal, Rodgers, the terrific Green Bay Packers quarterback, has been telling people he knows he'll be under the microscope more than he's ever been in his entire career.

Which is how it works in this league when you're at the top of the money chart and you've had great success. And it's how it works in almost every other walk of life, too.

I don't know if you ever welcome that kind of scrutiny, the kind where a flippant remark from an agent can drag you into a PR dust-up that goes viral.

But you definitely have to deal with it. Flacco is learning that the hard way.

Listen to Kevin Cowherd Tuesdays at 7:20 a.m. on 105.7 The Fan's "The Norris and Davis show."

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