Lewis joins crit­ics, ques­tions Flacco’s ‘pas­sion’

Baltimore Sun - - RAVENS WEEKEND - By Jeff Zre­biec and Ed­ward Lee jeff.zre­biec@balt­sun.com ed­ward.lee@balt­sun.com twit­ter.com/jef­fzre­biec­sun twit­ter.com/Ed­wardLeeSun

Ravens quar­ter­back Joe Flacco once said that he didn’t know what for­mer team­mate Ray Lewis was talk­ing about 90 per­cent of the time dur­ing the line­backer’s famed pregame speeches. Lewis’ lat­est com­ments, how­ever, are pretty easy to un­der­stand.

Mak­ing an ap­pear­ance Thurs­day on the FoxS­ports1 show “Speak for Your­self,” Lewis ques­tioned the pas­sion of the quar­ter­back that he spent his fi­nal five sea­sons prais­ing.

Asked what is wrong with Flacco, who is one of the low­est-rated quar­ter­backs in the NFL this sea­son, Lewis said: “I’ll tell you what I do know. There’s some­thing called tal­ent, right? You see it a dime a dozen. And then there’s some­thing called be­ing pas­sion­ate about what you do, about re­ally what you do. Me be­ing around it. Gifted? Ab­so­lutely. Pas­sion­ate about what he do? I’ve never seen that. I don’t know what that looks like.”

Flacco’s lead­er­ship and de­meanor were ques­tioned reg­u­larly early in his ca­reer. But that talk was qui­eted when Flacco led the Ravens to a vic­tory over the San Fran­cisco 49ers in Su­per Bowl XLVII, cap­ping one of the best post­sea­sons ever for a quar­ter­back. Lewis re­tired af­ter that sea­son.

With Flacco in the midst of one of his worst sea­sons as a pro, he has been fac­ing more and more crit­i­cism in re­cent weeks. Lewis ac­cused Flacco of “al­ways iso­lat­ing him­self to go sit on the bench. Never talk­ing to any­body af­ter a big play, a bad play, what­ever it is.”

He also called on the more vo­cal Ravens on the of­fen­sive side of the ball, such as wide re­ceivers Steve Smith Sr. and Mike Wal­lace, to bring the pas­sion out of Flacco.

“I don’t know how many times you will hear some­body just re­ally go out on a limb to de­fend, ‘He’s the greatest team­mate I’ve ever had.’ I don’t know how many times you’d hear that, right?” Lewis said of Flacco. “Maybe it’s be­cause his per­son­al­ity just isn’t that per­son­al­ity. He’s not a rah-rah guy. He won’t say much, but in the game of football, there has to be some burn­ing fire be­hind you. There has to be some­thing that’s big­ger than [you].” Of­fen­sive mo­men­tum: The Ravens’ 22point out­burst in the sec­ond half of last week’s 28-7 vic­tory over the Cleve­land Browns at M&T Bank Sta­dium showed the ca­pa­bil­i­ties of the of­fense when ev­ery­thing clicks. Repli­cat­ing that suc­cess against the Dal­las Cow­boys on Sun­day is clearly a pri­or­ity, but the unit is not as­sum­ing a sim­i­lar out­put.

“You can’t ex­pect be­cause you played a good half of football to come out and do the same thing the next game,” Flacco said Wed­nes­day. “You have to trans­late it. ... We can’t ex­pect it to just hap­pen. We have to con­tinue to come out here and work at it.”

The 28 points against Cleve­land were a sea­son high and the most since Nov. 30, when the Ravens beat the Browns, 33-27 — a span of 14 games. The Ravens’ 22-point half was its big­gest since Oct. 12, 2014, when they scored 38 in the first half of a 48-17 stomp­ing of the Tampa Bay Buc­ca­neers.

Sus­tain­ing the mo­men­tum might be dif­fi­cult for the Ravens’ 25th-ranked of­fense.

“You just have to play well the next week, though,” coach John Har­baugh said. “It’s a dif­fer­ent game. It’s a dif­fer­ent front. It’s a dif­fer­ent bunch of play­ers. It’s a dif­fer­ent game plan. We just have to carry over ex­e­cu­tion. The thing that can carry over mo­men­tum-wise is do­ing things the right way [and] well.”

Un­like Cleve­land’s No. 31 de­fense, Dal­las has a No. 12 rank­ing that is the sec­ond high­est the Ravens will have faced this sea­son, trail­ing only the Jack­sonville Jaguars’ No. 8 unit.

The Cow­boys have been espe­cially stout against the run, rank­ing third in the NFL in that depart­ment. In­jury re­port: De­fen­sive tackle Timmy Jerni­gan was the lat­est starter who did not prac­tice Thurs­day be­cause of in­jury. Jerni­gan, who ranks sec­ond on the de­fense in sacks (five) and fifth in tack­les (26), is deal­ing with what the team de­scribed as a shoul­der ail­ment.

Cor­ner­back Jimmy Smith (back), rookie left guard Alex Lewis (high right an­kle sprain) and tight end Crock­ett Gill­more (pulled ham­string) did not prac­tice for the sec­ond con­sec­u­tive day. Run­ning back Lorenzo Tali­a­ferro (thigh) was down­graded from lim­ited par­tic­i­pa­tion Wed­nes­day to none Thurs­day.

Out­side line­backer Ter­rell Suggs (torn left bi­ceps) and cen­ter Jeremy Zut­tah (sprained an­kle) did not prac­tice for non-in­jury rea­sons.

In­side line­backer C.J. Mosley (ham­string) was up­graded from lim­ited par­tic­i­pa­tion Wed­nes­day to full Thurs­day. Out­side lineback­ers Elvis Dumervil (foot) and rookie Ka­malei Cor­rea (thigh), cor­ner­back Sha­reece Wright (pulled ham­string), and right guard Mar­shal Yanda (shoul­der) prac­ticed fully for the sec­ond straight day. Pow­ers vs. Beasley could be key: The Cow­boys’ re­ceiv­ing op­tions on third down for rookie quar­ter­back Dak Prescott in­clude wide re­ceivers Dez Bryant and Ter­rance Wil­liams, tight end Ja­son Wit­ten, and run­ning back Ezekiel El­liott. But the most dan­ger­ous player might be Cole Beasley.

The 5-foot-8, 180-pound wide re­ceiver is tied for third in the NFL in third-down re­cep­tions with 17, trail­ing only the Oak­land Raiders’ Amari Cooper and the Buc­ca­neers’ Mike Evans with 18 each. Beasley has181­yards and one touch­down on those17 catches.

His prow­ess could mean a long day for Ravens nickel back Jer­raud Pow­ers, who is usu­ally matched up against an op­po­nent’s slot re­ceiver. Pow­ers said he is not sur­prised by Prescott’s reliance on Beasley.

“He’s prob­a­bly one of the bet­ter slot re­ceivers in the league,” said Pow­ers, who is 5-10 and 193 pounds. “He’s very crafty, very savvy at what he does.” Waller as red-zone tar­get: At 6-6 and 255 pounds, Dar­ren Waller is the type of big tar­get Flacco and the of­fense need when they get into the red zone. The sec­ond-year tight end’s po­ten­tial in that role was demon­strated in last week’s win when he juked rookie cor­ner­back Briean Bod­dyCal­houn in the mid­dle of the end zone, cut left and caught a pass from Flacco for a 4-yard touch­down.

With Gill­more still out, Waller is the of­fense’s tallest re­ceiv­ing threat. But Waller said size isn’t the only qual­ity to be­ing a red-zone tar­get.

“I would say size helps, but you don’t have to nec­es­sar­ily have size,” he said. “It’s about get­ting the ball at its high­est point. It’s about be­ing able to catch in traf­fic be­cause when you’re in the red zone, it’s usu­ally tight win­dows and thread­ing the nee­dle. You’ve got to be able to catch through hands swip­ing and all of that. You need strong hands. I feel like size is an ad­van­tage on top of the skills that it takes.”


Ray Lewis wasn’t as cor­dial to­ward Joe Flacco on Thurs­day as the two were af­ter this prac­tice dur­ing mini­camp in 2010.

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