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Ravens owner backs Joe Flacco, says he’ll keep Ray Rice

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OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti enthusiastically supports Joe Flacco as his quarterback, has every intention of retaining unrestricted free agent running back Ray Rice and believes the window of opportunity for his team to reach the Super Bowl remains wide open.

Bisciotti, general manager Ozzie Newsome, club president Dick Cass and coach John Harbaugh met with the media Wednesday to discuss the 2011 season and look ahead toward 2012.

The foursome would have preferred to be preparing for the Super Bowl, but a 23-20 defeat at New England in the AFC title game ruined those plans.

In the final minute of that game, a potential touchdown pass was knocked from Lee Evans' grasp and Billy Cundiff missed a 32-yard field goal attempt that would have forced overtime.

"I don't think any of us are over it, but we have to move on," Bisciotti said.

It has not been easy. Asked what the Ravens have to do to climb to the next level, Bisciotti replied, "Hold onto a ball."

Because the Ravens finished 13-5, won the AFC North, went 9-0 at home and reached the postseason for the fourth time in four years, there probably won't be many changes made in the months ahead.

"When you put up the kind of numbers and the success we've had, then it really comes down to tweaking," Bisciotti said.

With 13 unrestricted free agents on the roster, there will be changes before the Ravens start training camp next summer. But Rice, who led the NFL with 2,068 yards from scrimmage, and Flacco, whose contract expires after the 2012 season, aren't going anywhere.

"Ray and Joe Flacco will be part of this football team next year, guaranteed," Bisciotti said.

Flacco has been criticized for everything from his poise in the pocket to a perceived lack of emotion in the huddle, but he's taken Baltimore to the playoffs in each of his four seasons and twice advanced to the AFC championship game. He hasn't yet been to the Super Bowl, but the Ravens are confident it's only a matter of time.

"I think he's going to be extremely successful. I think he's going to have rings," Bisciotti said. "He's got 10 years of his prime to show it. I think that he will be rewarded for his personality in the long run, and I think our fans will, too."

Newsome said: "When you're in this business, you get judged on one thing: winning. Joe wins. He continues to win. If one pass is caught, he would be in the Super Bowl. I think he's going to win Super Bowls. A lot of them. The thing that you cannot knock about Joe is he's a winner."

Baltimore is the only team to reach the playoffs four years running and has gone 44-20 over that span, but the problem is that a berth in the Super Bowl remains elusive.

"There's a lot of pride and a lot of disappointment," Bisciotti said. "I am proud of the product we're giving Baltimore."

In the two weeks since the Ravens' season ended, defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano left to become coach of Indianapolis, replacing Jim Caldwell, who joined the Ravens as their quarterbacks coach.

The team hopes Caldwell, along with offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, can lift Flacco to elite status and carry the Ravens into the Super Bowl.

"Are we headed in the right direction with this offense? We are," Newsome said. "Are we satisfied with where we are right now? No. But we think the best way to get there is to maintain the continuity of having Cam, then to bring in someone like a Jim Caldwell to bring another set of eyes with that."

Other projects that must be tended to this offseason include negotiating with guard Ben Grubbs, whose contract is up. Newsome said the biggest need for the team is the offensive line, and Grubbs is an important part of it.

"He's a really good player and he's young," Newsome said of Grubbs.

One thing that won't happen this offseason: The Ravens will not sacrifice their third-ranked defense in favor of strengthening the league's 15th-ranked offense.

"It's a very delicate balance when you try and shift attention over to the offense," Bisciotti said. "The next thing you know, you're giving up 27 points a game. We don't want to be there as an organization."

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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