OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) Joe Flacco played the unaccustomed role of spectator at the Baltimore Ravens minicamp this week, watching from afar while Ryan Mallett ran the first-team offense.
Flacco played in 122 straight games - the fifth-longest streak for a quarterback in NFL history - before tearing the ACL and MCL in his left knee during the fourth quarter of a win over St. Louis. He was placed on injured reserve on Nov. 24 and underwent surgery soon after that.
He is now in recovery mode, with the hope of being ready for the start of training camp in late July.
''I expect to be on the field for the first day,'' Flacco declared Thursday.
During the three-day mandatory minicamp that ended Thursday, Flacco alternatingly rehabilitated his knee and watched practice with owner Steve Bisciotti in a golf cart.
''It hasn't been a bad thing,'' the quarterback said. ''It's been a time to rest and get better.''
Far worse was watching his teammates during the final six weeks of Baltimore's 5-11 season. Flacco's run of consecutive games began at the outset of his rookie year in 2008 and extended deep into his eighth pro season.
''I wanted to be the guy who played 15, 16, 17 years and didn't miss a snap,'' Flacco said. ''I had to come to grips with it pretty quickly because it was my reality. That was the toughest part, not being able to be on the field with the guys for the last six games.''
Just like that, Flacco went from the leader of the offense to a forgotten man.
''You very quickly get isolated and tossed aside when you're not on the team and you're not playing, because that's just the reality of this game,'' he said. ''Yeah, there's no doubt about it, I love to be out there with those guys, and it was tough.''
The passage of time and the improvement of his knee have allowed Flacco to change his perspective.
''At this point, I'm not in that reality anymore,'' he said. ''I'm looking ahead to this year and going out and winning football games."
Flacco, 31, is the Ravens' career leader in yards passing (28,322), touchdown passes (162), completions (2,479) and attempts (4,070). He's been a part of 10 postseason victories, and capped the 2012 season by being chosen Super Bowl MVP following Baltimore's 34-31 victory over San Francisco.
Now, however, he's just a quarterback trying to make a comeback. At this point, he's not quite sure how he might react when pressured in the pocket.
''When I'm out there running around and cutting on it and doing those things, there's no tentativeness because I didn't hurt it that way. I hurt it by getting hit,'' he said. ''I'm curious. It will probably be a little different that first time I take a couple of dropbacks and guys are in my face. I don't expect to have those kinds of thoughts linger in my head, but you never know until you get out there and do it again.''
His teammates have grown accustomed to seeing Flacco on the field, so practice this week was a bit strange for members of the starting offense.
''You get so used to having Joe around. It's just different with Ryan out there,'' guard Marshal Yanda said. ''But that is part of football. Injuries happen, and we know that he will be out there come training camp.''
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