OWINGS MILLS, Maryland -- Joe Flacco was wearing a brace on his left knee. That, I can confirm. Otherwise, I saw nothing during a full-pads Baltimore Ravens training camp practice Sunday morning that told me Flacco is in any way limited just eight months removed from tearing his ACL and MCL.
You won't find a medical degree on my office wall, but what I do know is that I saw none of the clues that can tip off observers about health concerns.
Remember, despite the advances of modern medicine, full and immediate recovery from ACL injuries should not be taken for granted. That's especially true for Flacco, considering the relatively brief time since surgery and the always-lurking possibility of side effects. (Green Bay Packers receiver Jordy Nelson, for one, opened training camp on the physically unable to perform after a "hiccup" with his knee more than 11 months after originally tearing his ACL.)
Most notably, Flacco continued to take all first-team repetitions. When teams are at all worried about an injury to a key player, they will at least limit reps or hold them out of team drills. The Minnesota Vikings, for example, didn't let tailback Adrian Peterson take a full hit for weeks -- and he did not play in the preseason -- after returning from a torn ACL suffered in December 2011.
Secondly, Flacco had a sharp practice in the most physical environment a team can put a quarterback short of a preseason game. He wore a red jersey, which prohibited contact, but Ravens pass-rushers were still pushing hard to collapse the pocket.
During one red zone drill, I watched as backpedaling left tackle Ronnie Stanley came perilously close to Flacco's left leg. Flacco stood in the pocket, kept his left leg planted and made a sharp throw. Often, you'll see a worried or uncomfortable player yank his leg away or throw the ball more quickly than he wanted to. I didn't see that Sunday.
Instead, I saw Flacco zip a touchdown pass over the middle to receiver Kamar Aiken and have several others dropped. Aiken and Flacco also connected on a long fade in team drills.
It's true that Flacco doesn't need to perform the kind of running and cutting that seem most difficult for a player with a recently-injured knee. And who knows? He might simply be better at masking pain than most. But on Sunday, at least, the naked eye matched what Flacco has been saying publicly: He's comfortable and well on his way to being at full throttle when the season begins.