OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) -It's time for Joe Flacco to say ``I told you so.''
That would be out of character for the soft-spoken rookie, but there's no question the Baltimore Ravens' top draft pick was on target when he insisted that the best way for him to start his career as an NFL quarterback was on the field.
``How are you going to learn when you're sitting?'' Flacco said at the end of the preseason when someone suggested it might be wise for him to watch as an understudy on the sideline.
Three games into his first pro season, Flacco already has the look of a veteran. After guiding the Ravens to two wins in his first two starts, he threw a touchdown pass and deftly directed a 76-yard scoring drive to force overtime last Monday in a 23-20 defeat at Pittsburgh.
Flacco got the starting job because Kyle Boller and Troy Smith weren't healthy enough to play, but he has performed well enough to prove the point he emphatically made in the preseason.
So Joe, how about telling the Ravens you were right all along?
``There's no 'I told you so,''' Flacco said Wednesday. ``I'm just happy to be playing and helping the team out. I think that's all that matters.''
He did, however, make it emphatically clear that his education has been helped along by being the first-string quarterback.
``Anytime you're able to get three NFL games under your belt and all the practice time, I can't even guesstimate how much better I've become because of it. It's huge for the learning curve to experience it yourself,'' he said. ``You can get better sitting and watching, but I don't think you'll get better as quickly, and that's what I've been about since day one.''
When they drafted Flacco with the 18th overall pick, the Ravens designated him as their quarterback of the future. A shoulder injury to Boller and Smith's infected tonsils pushed the future into now, and the former Delaware star has proven to be as comfortable passing against NFL foes as he was in dominating the Colonial Athletic Association.
``The No. 1 thing for me is that he's maintained who he is. He's the guy that we thought he was,'' Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said. ``Sometimes you evaluate a guy before the draft and they're not what you thought. The most pleasing thing about Joe is that this is who he was in college. He hasn't changed how he acts. If he continues to be true to himself, he's not going to do anything but get better and better.''
ood. He has thrown two interceptions and lost a fumble, but that is offset by his 55.7 completion percentage, his poise in the pocket and that Baltimore is scoring 22 points per game.
``Joe is a very smart quarterback. He understands the game a lot better than a lot of young quarterbacks would,'' Ravens receiver Derrick Mason said.
Flacco had not faced adversity until Monday night, his first road game in the NFL. He excelled in the first half, throwing a touchdown pass to Daniel Wilcox for a 13-3 lead. But he lost a fumble during a third-quarter sack, and Pittsburgh scored on the play to go up 17-13.
After the Steelers made it 20-13, Flacco went 3-for-3 for 60 yards in a fourth-quarter drive that took the game into overtime.
``I didn't learn anything new about Joe that I didn't already know. The guy is a competitor. Mentally he's tough,'' Mason said. ``He's maturing the more he's out there on the field. It was evident this last game. When we needed a score to put it into overtime, Joe did it. He was cool out there, and that's what you've got to have from your quarterback.''
Flacco next will be tested Sunday by the unbeaten Tennessee Titans, who own the league's fifth-ranked defense. But Titans coach Jeff Fisher wondered aloud if his team will be the one being challenged.
``He's very poised,'' Fisher said of Flacco. ``He has those instincts in the pocket that you can't teach, where you can move around and feel the rush and still keeps your eyes downfield. That says a lot. He's going to be a very good quarterback.''

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