DENVER – Joe Flacco looms larger than life in Denver, and not just because he engineered the stunning upset of the Broncos in the playoffs that propelled the Baltimore Ravens to the Super Bowl title.
The league’s marketing campaign for next week’s kickoff game features several large banners of Flacco fluttering from lamp posts on downtown streets — and a giant one several stories high that hangs at Sports Authority Field alongside a banner of Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning.
That has drawn an angry public reaction from Broncos fans who have taken to Twitter and to the streets to vent their frustration. One local sportscaster used a Sharpie to draw a mustache on a Flacco poster hanging along Denver’s 16th Street Mall, and covered another with tape.
Some fans have organized an online petition asking the league, which purchased the advertising space from the Downtown Denver Partnership, to remove the Flacco banners.
The Ravens visit Denver Sept. 5 for the NFL’s regular-season opener. They’re the first champion to open on the road since the Super Bowl team began hosting the league’s Thursday night kickoff celebration 10 years ago.
In a radio interview this week, Manning questioned the placement of the Flacco banner on the stadium, telling KOA 850 AM, the Broncos’ radio affiliate in Denver, “It doesn’t seem to make much sense that the Denver Broncos have to have an opposing player on their stadium.”
BILLS: Preposterous as it might have once sounded, quarterback Matt Leinart finds himself suddenly having much in common with Jeff Tuel.
Upon arriving in Buffalo last weekend for what could be a last chance at resurrecting his career, the 2004 Heisman Trophy winner offered Tuel — an undrafted rookie out of Washington State — advice on how to prepare for the possibility of being the Bills’ opening-day starter.
“With football, it’s crazy,” Leinart said. “I told him, ‘Hey, in this league, anything can happen. You always have to stay ready.'”
Leinart spoke from experience. It wasn’t lost on the former Southern California star that he could have been referring to his own seven-year career that’s gone from the promise of first-round-draft-pick potential, to spending nearly the entire offseason wondering if he still has an NFL future.
“Oh yeah, I’ve seen the worst in this league. And I’ve seen some pretty good highs,” Leinart said. “So I’ve been through a lot.”
If not for injuries sidelining the Bills’ two top quarterbacks, rookie EJ Manuel (left knee) and veteran Kevin Kolb (concussion), Leinart might still have been waiting by the phone.
Instead, after signing with Buffalo on Sunday, Leinart will have what’s essentially a one-time tryout to compete for a backup spot as the Bills (2-1) close the preseason against Detroit (2-1) Thursday. Tuel is expected to get limited playing time because the Bills are wary of having yet another quarterback hurt before opening against New England on Sept. 8.
That means Leinart and Thaddeus Lewis, who was acquired Sunday in a trade with Detroit, will get the majority of snaps after only two days of practice and a walkthrough.
BUCCANEERS: Tampa Bay signed wide receiver Jordan Norwood and waived defensive end Aaron Morgan.
Norwood had 36 receptions for 405 yards and one touchdown over the past two seasons with the Cleveland Browns.
RAIDERS: Terrelle Pryor will get his opportunity to earn the starting quarterback job when Oakland closes out the preseason against the Seattle Seahawks.
“I’m going to keep showing the coaches what I can do good and keep getting better at the things that I’m not doing so good at, and that’s something that I can clean up on and get better at,” Pryor said. “That’s the thing, I’m definitely not all the way there in terms of the playbook and in terms of just being a quarterback out there. I’m learning still. Don’t get me wrong, I can lead if I was called upon to do it. I’m just out there getting better and trying to get in synch with the guys.”
BROWNS: Cleveland was awarded rookie linebacker Eric Martin on waivers from New Orleans and waived second-year cornerback Trevin Wade.
• Coach Rob Chudzinski. opted to rest the majority of his starters Thursday night in the final exhibition game against the Chicago Bears.
Backup quarterback Jason Campbell is expected to start instead of Brandon Weeden.
COWBOYS: Defensive tackle Jay Ratliff says there is no issue with his hamstring, meaning a setback that will cost him at least the first six games is related to a groin that was surgically repaired eight months ago.
Ratliff spoke at the team’s kickoff luncheon, a day after being put on the physically unable to perform list. He never answered questions from reporters during training camp in Oxnard, Calif., where Coach Jason Garrett said he was sidelined by a hamstring injury sustained in the precamp conditioning test and lingering issues with his groin.
The team put him on the reserve list as part of cutting the active roster to 75 players, and Ratliff can’t play until Oct. 20 at Philadelphia. He was out the first four games last year with an ankle injury and then sat the final six with the groin problem.
Ratliff, who turns 32 on Thursday, had sports hernia surgery in December.
“Absolutely I’m disappointed,” Ratliff said in a rare and brief interview. “But everyone knew what the issue was way beforehand. Everyone knew what it was since last year. I’m not going into much more detail other than that. It’s for sure it’s not a hamstring tweak. So that’s all I have to say about it.”
When asked why he didn’t do his rehabilitation at the team’s Valley Ranch headquarters, Ratliff responded, “Good question.” He wouldn’t elaborate.
JETS: New York signed former Green Bay backup quarterback Graham Harrell.
Harrell passed his physical in time to join the Jets for the preseason finale against Philadelphia on Thursday night. The former Texas Tech star spent the last three seasons as a backup to Aaron Rodgers, and was 2 of 4 for 20 yards in four regular-season appearances.
JAGUARS: Jacksonville signed veteran cornerback Will Blackmon and waived rookie cornerback Marcus Burley.