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 on 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."


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"We respect the fans' passion and enthusiasm for the game," said Brian McCarthy, NFL vice president of corporate communications. "This will be in many ways a Super Bowl-like atmosphere with a national audience to kick off the season. It's a tremendous matchup, but built around it is some of our activities that you would see at a Super Bowl or you'd see at an international game where you promote both teams."

McCarthy noted that in the 2007 kickoff, there were giant banners of Saints running back Reggie Bush hanging alongside those of Manning, then with the Colts, in Indianapolis.

He said the game in Denver also is used "to promote the matchups of all the other teams. So, think of it almost as an opening ceremony. During the game next Thursday we will celebrate the return of the NFL across the country."

Redskins: Robert Griffin III will start Washington's season opener Sept. 9 against the Philadelphia Eagles, sources close to the star quarterback told ESPN.com. Griffin has practiced the past two weeks without any setbacks to his surgically repaired knee and is coming off his best week of work yet. Griffin still is scheduled to meet with Dr. James Andrews on Thursday night, before Washington plays at Tampa Bay in the teams' preseason finale, to get medical clearance.

Jets: The team signed former Green Bay Packers backup quarterback Graham Harrell, giving it some added depth at the position. Harrell passed his physical Wednesday, 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.

Cowboys: Dallas 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 Wednesday, a day after being put on the physically unable to perform list.

Seahawks: Seattle is dealing with several injuries along its defensive line ahead of the final preseason game against the Raiders on Thursday. Defensive tackles Brandon Mebane and Tony McDaniel are dealing with groin injuries that will force them to miss the preseason finale. Coach Pete Carroll says he thinks both will be ready for the season opener if their injuries respond to treatment. Jordan Hill is still considered week-to-week with a strained biceps.