Flacco takes Lewis comments in stride
Quarterback says he’s accustomed to criticism; teammates stand up for him
As Joe Flacco fielded questions from reporters in front of his locker after Friday’s practice, several of his Ravens teammates standing nearby shouted support. Defensive backs Jimmy Smith and Eric Weddle yelled, “I got your back, Joe.”
Two days before the Ravens face the surging Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium in a matchup of division-leading teams, Flacco found himself answering questions about comments his former teammate Ray Lewis made Thursday on Fox Sports 1. Lewis, who played with Flacco for his final five NFL seasons, questioned the quarterback’s passion for football.
“It’s a little surprising coming from Ray, but it’s been something I’ve dealt with probably back before high school,” Flacco said. “It’s just part of my personality. When things are going good, it’s questioned as if it’s a good thing. When things aren’t going as well as you might like them to be, it’s always a question as to whether my personality is that of one that fits what an NFL quarterback should be. It’s not anything I’m not used to. But it is a little bit different coming from Ray.”
Flacco, who once joked that he didn’t understand “90 percent” of the things Lewis said during his trademark pregame speeches, essentially took the high road, and was noncommittal when asked whether he’d even bring up the comments with his former teammate.
“Yeah, he hasn’t been [around], but he was here for a while. So, you want to be able to listen to what he says and all that,” Flacco said. “I know he hasn’t been here for a while. We want him to feel a part of this place. We want him to come around. I don’t know how much that plays or doesn’t play into it.”
Flacco said he was made aware of what Lewis said by coach John Harbaugh. Flacco made it a point to watch Lewis’ comments because he knew he’d be asked about them by reporters after practice. While Flacco took the comments in stride, Lewis’ remarks clearly struck a nerve with other Ravens.
“It’s just odd that you hear Ray Lewis saying something. Joe Flacco won you a Super Bowl, did you forget about that?” Weddle said. “It is what it is. We love Joe. He’s our guy. He’s a great teammate, professional, leads, everything you want. Quarterback Joe Flacco (5) said he was dismayed by comments from former Ravens teammate Ray Lewis about Flacco’s supposed lack of passion for football. It’s kind of irrelevant. We don’t really care what the outside thinks. For an old teammate to say that, it’s just like, ‘Don’t you have something better to talk about?’ I guess he didn’t.”
Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. also defended Flacco, who is having one of the worst seasons of his career. Flacco’s 78.3 quarterback rating ranks 29th in the NFL.
“You don’t play this game this long and be able to accomplish some of the things that Joe Flacco, Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, all the great guys that have played with the Baltimore Ravens that I’ve admired … without having a drive or a passion for the game,” Smith said. “[Lewis’] opinion is based on his opinion. That’s a great Hall of Fame linebacker. That’s all.” Smith, Dumervil doubtful: It appears that the Ravens will enter Sunday’s game against the Cowboys without their top cornerback. A limited participant in practice Friday after missing the previous two days, Jimmy Smith was listed as doubtful on the game’s final injury report.
“We’ll just wait and see what the doctors tell us,” Harbaugh said. “His back tightened up a little bit. We’ll just have to see how it responds — whatever the doctors say. He wants to play, and we’ll know. The fact that he was out here today, I think, is a good sign.”
Smith declined to address his health Friday. The veteran cornerback would be a significant loss, leaving the Ravens without a big and physical cornerback to match up against Cowboys star wide receiver Dez Bryant. In past weeks, Smith has had success matching up with big receivers, such as the New York Jets’ Brandon Marshall and the Cleveland Browns’ Terrelle Pryor Sr.
Tight end Crockett Gillmore (thigh) and starting left guard Alex Lewis (ankle) were ruled out for Sunday’s game while running back Lorenzo Taliaferro (thigh) and strong-side linebacker Elvis Dumervil (foot) joined Smith as doubtful. Dumervil, who hasn’t played since Oct. 9, practiced this week, but might need some more practice time before he returns to game action.
“He responded well,” Harbaugh said. “I don’t think he had any problems after the two workouts. He looked good. He looked quick and explosive, which is what I was looking for. I know Elvis wants to play, and I know I want him to play. It will be up to the doctors whether they allow him to play or not.”
Guard Marshal Yanda (shoulder), line- backers C.J. Mosley (thigh) and Kamalei Correa (thigh), defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan (shoulder) and cornerback Shareece Wright (thigh) are questionable. Aspecial homecoming: Linebacker Zachary Orr’s first NFL homecoming came under drastically different circumstances. He was a little-known, undrafted rookie out of North Texas when the Ravens traveled to Dallas to play the Cowboys in the 2014 preseason.
When he returns to AT&T Stadium on Sunday, it will be as an NFL starter. After playing primarily on special teams in his first two seasons, Orr won the Ravens’ starting weak-side linebacker job in training camp and leads the team with 77 tackles.
“It adds to the excitement,” Orr said. “You never take starting in this league for granted at all. Things can change very quickly. Me going back home as a starter and my family to be able to watch me start a game in the National Football League is great. They’ll be able to see me play a lot of snaps out there.”
Orr starred at DeSoto High, which is about15 minutes away from AT&TStadium. He joked that the interest in tickets for Sunday’s game from family and friends is “real deep and heavy.” He said it’s extra special that his younger brother, Nick Orr, a junior defensive back at Texas Christian, will see him play an NFL game in person for the first time. Buck stops here: Orioles manager Buck Showalter watched Friday’s practice alongside Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome and spoke to the team after Harbaugh coaxed him into the team huddle.
“It was great having him out here,” Harbaugh said. “He’s a great guy, a great storyteller. He told about four stories. He got going. He acted all like he didn’t want to talk and then he started telling some stemwinders. He had a message and it was about the team and about competing. He’s always got some good one-liners in there and some new stories as always. It was great. The guys appreciated it.”
Showalter will be in Dallas on Sunday, but he said he’s had a hard time getting tickets for the game.