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Defensive support for quarterback

Ravens standing by Flacco in wake of Reed comments

By Amalie Benjamin
Globe Staff / January 19, 2012
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OWINGS MILLS, Md. - Before safety Ed Reed’s controversial comments on Sirius XM radio this week, the refrain was always that the criticism of Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco came from outsiders, from the media, from people who didn’t really know and therefore didn’t really matter.

That claim can no longer be made.

Now the questions about Flacco’s performance - including a claim that he was “rattled a little bit’’ in Sunday’s win over the Texans - have come from inside the locker room.

“I talked to Ed about it,’’ said Flacco, who happened to see the comments while he was out eating dinner. “It was a little funny to me. I was a little caught off-guard. It is what it is. We talked about it. It’s really not that big of a deal.’’

Reed made the comments after Flacco went 14 of 27 passing for 176 yards and two touchdowns against the Texans, with the Baltimore offense scoring just 3 points in the final 46 minutes of the game.

“Joe was kind of rattled a little bit by that defense,’’ Reed said Tuesday on Sirius XM Blitz. “They had a lot of guys in the box on him and they were giving it to him. I think a couple of times he needed to get rid of the ball. It just didn’t look like he had a hold on the offense.’’

He went on to say, “He can’t play like that. One specific play that sticks out to me was when Ray Rice came out and got pushed out of the backfield and he still threw him the ball and he had Torrey Smith on the outside. I can say that sitting on the sideline or sitting in the stands. You don’t know what someone else is seeing.’’

That was the extent of it, as Reed did not address the media yesterday during the open locker room period at the Ravens practice facility. He is scheduled to be on a national conference call this afternoon.

And those that did talk yesterday - including linebacker Ray Lewis - came to the defense of Flacco, with Lewis defending him at length, calling him a “flat-out winner,’’ and saying that so much of what happens to the team seems to be blamed on Flacco even when it isn’t the quarterback’s fault.

Defending Flacco is something the Ravens have had to do quite a bit, given how much criticism he tends to receive.

“It’s not an issue,’’ Lewis said of Reed’s comments. “I haven’t heard clearly what he said, but it’s not an issue. The only issue we have, as a team, is going up and trying to get a victory in Foxborough. Anything else that anybody wants to bring up is irrelevant at this time.’’

Even the words of a teammate.

“I understand where Ed’s heart’s at,’’ said coach John Harbaugh, who had a chance to talk to Reed after the comments came out. “We’re together a long time. We know each other. We understand where each other is coming from. I’m sure there are some things he would have liked to have said a little better.

“If you look at the whole context and hear the tone of his voice and the message he was trying to communicate, it’s a good message. But obviously, things could have been [said differently]. The way you read stuff like that, I’m sure he’s not really happy about that.’’

Harbaugh said that, overall, he did not have a problem with what Reed said, especially since “no one has been more critical of himself than that guy over the years.’’ He stood by both his safety and his quarterback as he tries to get the focus back onto what will happen on the field.

“We all take a very critical approach to what we do and a very humble heart to our job and to the challenges ahead, and we try to make each other better the best way we can and we move on,’’ Harbaugh said. “And that’s what we’re doing. You just move on. We know each other, we understand each other.’’

Still, the comments have the potential to become an issue in the days leading up to Sunday’s AFC Championship game against the Patriots. Baltimore players didn’t seem worried about that possibility, but that doesn’t mean the words won’t be hanging over them in the locker room.

“I think, at the end of the day, it really won’t be a distraction for us,’’ wide receiver Lee Evans said. “It’s another thing that’s said in the locker room that you may or may not agree with. I think one of the differences with this locker room is it’s a veteran locker room and you’re able to talk through the differences.

“Nothing is said behind anybody’s back. If you have something to say, it’s pretty much out in the open.’’

And it doesn’t get much more open than on national radio.

“I think we all just kind of comment on the things we need to do better as a team,’’ linebacker Terrell Suggs said. “I believe Ed opened the whole thing with saying he [Reed] didn’t play well.

“We just know what we have to do to get it done, to play better as a unit. And that goes across all of us - not just one person.’’

Amalie Benjamin can be reached at abenjamin@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @amaliebenjamin.

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