Lewis joins critics, questions Flacco’s ‘passion’
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.