Joe Flacco defends himself to critics

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It's going to take Flacco a while to get used to playing without Mason, the team's career leader in receptions, and Heap, the starting tight end for the past 10 years.

Flacco with his quarterbacks coach, Jim Zorn. (Photo: Associated Press)

"I'm sure at first there will be an initial shock without those guys being out there," Flacco said. "I hope we can go out there and operate no matter what. If those guys aren't there, it's because we are confident with the guys that we have. I would say if they're not there, we know we have a great group of guys. If they are there, then we're only going to benefit from that."

Replacing Heap, at least initially, is second-year tight end Ed Dickson. He doesn't have the credentials of Heap, but is not backing down from the challenge.

"It means a lot to me that they have that much faith in me," Dickson said. "I've got a year under my belt, so I'll definitely be more comfortable in our playbook."
But it's going to be up to Flacco to make the offense work, and he's ready to do just that.

"I just want to go out there and win football games. I want the ball to be put in my hands. I want to be in control," he said. "I want to be in position to lose football games, I've always said that. I want it to be on me. ... In order to do that, you got to have trust in me, and I think we're there. I think we just need to go out there and put it all forward and do what we need to do to get to that next step, get past the hump and win these really big football games."

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