Flacco takes Lewis com­ments in stride

Quar­ter­back says he’s ac­cus­tomed to crit­i­cism; team­mates stand up for him

Baltimore Sun - - RAVENS & NFL - By Jeff Zre­biec jeff.zre­biec@balt­sun.com twit­ter.com/jef­fzre­biec­sun

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.

KARL MER­TON FERRON/BALTIMORE SUN

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