NEW ORLEANS - Early Monday morning, the Baltimore Ravens' quarterback was a regular Joe once again.
Joe Flacco, only a few hours after delivering an MVP performance in the Ravens' 34-31 victory over San Francisco in Super Bowl XLVII, had more trouble figuring out how to fold the baby stroller for his 7-month old son, Stephen, at the team hotel.
"That's what it's all about," said Flacco, who is from Audubon, N.J., before he was handed the keys to the 2014 Corvette Stingray that goes to the Super Bowl MVP. "I haven't seen my son in a couple days, so it was cool to see him and enjoy this with the family. Without those guys, this wouldn't mean near as much as it does."
There's something about the 49ers that brings out the family ties for Flacco. In 2011, when the Ravens beat San Francisco on Thanksgiving night, he and his wife, Dana, told their families they were expecting Stephen in June 2012. And they recently learned she is pregnant again, news they shared before the Super Bowl.
"I don't know if I want to play the 49ers again," Flacco joked.
Flacco's next order of business, after the requisite trip to Disney World on Monday, parade in Baltimore today and making the rounds at the talk shows in New York this week, will be to hammer out a new contract with the Ravens, a deal that could make him one of the highest-paid players in the game and enable him to provide for as many children as he and Dana want to have.
Flacco, 28, will be an unrestricted free agent, and after turning down an offer of $16 million a year before this season, has as much bargaining power as any player in recent NFL history. The Ravens have 22 players who will be free agents, including safety Ed Reed, defensive end Paul Kruger, cornerback Cary Williams and offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie, so they could place a one-year franchise tag on Flacco or any one of them.
Flacco said he and owner Steve Bisciotti have been talking for the past few months and is confident a deal can be done.
"I'm pretty optimistic, but who knows," Flacco said. "There are all kinds of crazy things that can happen with these contracts. This is a great organization, I love being here, a great city, I don't anticipate any problem."
Flacco completed 22-of-33 passes for 287 yards and three touchdowns against the 49ers, capping a brilliant postseason in which he threw 11 touchdown passes and no interceptions in four wins.
Flacco, whose career postseason record improved to 9-4, credited the Ravens' offensive line for his success during this year's playoffs.
"Our offensive line has played very well since I've been here, but the last four games have been unbelievable," Flacco said. "The way they've been able to protect and give me the time back there and let our guys go to work and get open . . . no credit usually goes to those guys, but they're the reason I'm standing here today, and we are Super Bowl champions. They played unbelievable and everyone else rallied around them."
From Delaware to NFL
Ravens coach John Harbaugh envisioned the possibilities Flacco and the Ravens could reach when he took over as head coach in 2008 and selected him in the first round of the draft out of Delaware.
Harbaugh and Flacco talked for two hours at a Baltimore restaurant, and Harbaugh was impressed with Flacco, who had transferred to Delaware from Pittsburgh when one-time Chiefs quarterback Tyler Palko was the Panthers' quarterback.
"Joe impressed me as a guy who was determined to be really good and felt like he had a lot to prove," Harbaugh said. "Joe's come up the hard way. Joe is not a guy who had everything laid out perfectly before him in college. He dealt with adversity in college. I felt like he was a guy who was going to do whatever it took to overcome whatever came, to be the best he was going to be, and that's proven to be true.
"He's the kind of guy that no matter what happens, no matter what criticism is thrown in front him, no matter what disappointments he might have, he steps up and bounces back and he comes back and goes to work. He'll be the same way with his success. He'll be right back there at OTAs, in minicamps, and he'll be going to work just like maybe he had lost this game. He'll be just as motivated and just as determined and that's one of the things that makes him great."
Flacco was mildly surprised that he was selected the Super Bowl MVP on a night in which wide receiver Jacoby Jones set a Super Bowl record with 290 most combined yards, including a record 108-yard kickoff return, the longest play in Super Bowl history, and a 56-yard touchdown catch.
"I don't know if I was shocked, it's one of those things they tell you ... I was shocked that I got a car."