Flacco not 100 per­cent, but has no lim­i­ta­tions

Cecil Whig - - LOCAL & NATIONAL SPORTS - By SEAN GROGAN sgro­gan@ce­cil­whig.com

OWINGS MILLS — The num­bers weren’t over­whelm­ing, but there was still plenty of good news sur­round­ing Ravens quar­ter­back Joe Flacco fol­low­ing the sea­son opener.

“The best part about it is that he helped us win the game,” Bal­ti­more head coach John Har­baugh said Wed­nes­day. “The sec­ond best part about it was that he got through it with no harm. He’s good and he’s ready to prac­tice and ready to go.”

Flacco took the field Sun­day af­ter miss­ing all of train­ing camp and pre­sea­son with a back in­jury. He re­turned to prac­tice only eight days be­fore the Ravens trav­eled to Cincin­nati to shut out the Ben­gals, 20-0.

His stats won’t blow any­one away, but Flacco played well enough. He led an of­fense that kept the foot­ball on the ground through­out the sec­ond half to eat clock and pro­tect a large lead.

“We only threw the ball 15 times, so you’re not go­ing to get a lot [of down­field pass at­tempts],” Flacco said. “That’s kind of what we gave our­selves in the first half there, we af­forded our­selves the abil­ity to come out in the sec­ond hand and run the ball and es­tab­lish our phys­i­cal game.”

The Ravens ac­tu­ally threw the ball 17 times, with Flacco com­plet­ing nine of those at­tempts for 121 yards. He threw one in­ter­cep­tion and hit wide re­ceiver Jeremy Ma­clin for a 48-yard touch­down pass.

Late in the game, Bal­ti­more con­sid­ered tak­ing a shot down the field as the Ben­gals packed the box de­fen­sively, an­tic­i­pated more run plays. Flacco ad­vo­cated against it – a rare sit­u­a­tion for a big-armed quar­ter­back to op­pose throw­ing the ball deep.

“It’s all about win­ning foot­ball games. When you’re play­ing in those types of games, some­times you kind of lose track of that,” he said. “If we’re go­ing to win a bunch of foot­ball games, we’re go­ing to need to do it a hand­ful of dif­fer­ent ways over the course of the sea­son.”

The dom­i­nant de­fen­sive per­for­mance was a per­fect sce­nario for a quar­ter­back re­turn­ing from in­jury. Flacco’s low num­ber of pass at­tempts limited the num­ber of hits he had to take, though he did re­ceive a few hard shots – one that even re­quired him to be tested for signs of a con­cus­sion. He never threw more than 20 yards down field, elim­i­nated the torquing of his back re­quired to throw the ball deep.

Flacco said Sun­day he left the game healthy and re­it­er­ated it Wed­nes­day. He did not claim to be 100 per­cent, but added that he’ll have no phys­i­cal re­straints when the Cleve­land Browns come to town this week­end.

“I have no lim­i­ta­tions on Sun­day when it comes to throw­ing the foot­ball or mov­ing around,” he said. “Ob­vi­ously, af­ter the game, your adren­a­line’s go­ing and you feel good, but I def­i­nitely was very happy with how I woke up the next day.

“I feel like I came out of the game great and am just get­ting bet­ter and bet­ter.”

Flacco said he wore his nor­mal game-day gear in Cincin­nati, with­out any­thing ex­tra to pro­tect his lower back.

Sit­ting out for an en­tire train­ing camp was not the start Flacco or Har­baugh wanted for the sea­son, but both ac­knowl­edged that it proved to be the right de­ci­sion.

“Like I said be­fore, if it was the reg­u­lar sea­son or the Su­per Bowl or any­thing like that, then yeah, I would be get­ting my­self ready to play,” Flacco said. “It would then turn into some­thing I’d be deal­ing with the en­tire year and I would never be 100 per­cent. To get my­self back to 100 per­cent, what was the best plan for that? You come to re­al­ize the best thing is to not play in the pre­sea­son, while it’s not ideal.”

It was the best de­ci­sion, but not the one his coach would have made.

“My plan would’ve been to have the quar­ter­back prac­tice all through train­ing camp, but I think the doc­tors and the train­ers did a great job,” Har­baugh said. “Joe did a great job, that was the tar­get and he made it.”

OWINGS MILLS — The Bal­ti­more Ravens have placed run­ning back Danny Wood­head on in­jured re­serve and pro­moted run­ning back Jeremy Lang­ford from the prac­tice squad Thurs­day.

Head coach John Har­baugh said Wed­nes­day that Wood­head would miss at least a month with a ham­string in­jury suf­fered in the sea­son opener against the Ben­gals.

Lang­ford was cut by the Chicago Bears prior to the start of the sea­son. Mul­ti­ple teams reached out to him about join­ing the prac­tice squads, but he opted to sign with Bal­ti­more on Sept. 4.

“I just like the op­por­tu­nity. I felt like it was a good spot for me, as far as run­ning the ball,” Lang­ford said Wed­nes­day, one day be­fore he was pro­moted to the 53-man ros­ter. “And they play the Bears, too, so that helped. I think it is a good op­por­tu­nity for me – a chance to get on the field.”

Lang­ford be­gan last sea­son as Chi- cago’s start­ing run­ning back, but suf­fered an an­kle in­jury in Week 3 and never re­gained the job. He ran for 200 yards and four touch­downs and caught 190 passes for 142 yards in 2016.

The Bears drafted Lang­ford in the fourth round in 2014.

“Get­ting drafted, you don’t re­ally ex­pect to go in there – es­pe­cially af­ter cut day – and get re­leased. It’s ex­tra mo­ti­va­tion and it’s sort of the busi­ness of the game,” he said. “You can al­ways get cut, so con­tinue to work hard and it will all work out.”

New rules this sea­son al­low teams to bring two play­ers back from in­jured re­serve. In pre­vi­ous sea­sons, NFL squads could des­ig­nate one player to re­turn from in­jured re­serve.

Wood­head would be el­i­gi­ble to re­turn on Nov. 19 against the Green Bay Pack­ers if the Ravens choose to ac­ti­vate him. Sec­ond-year cor­ner­back Mau­rice Canady is an­other likely can­di­date to re­turn from IR when el­i­gi­ble.

“We will just have to see how Ozzie [New­some] wants to han­dle it, in terms of the ros­ter and things like that,” Har­baugh said.

On Sun­day, while Wood­head was the Ravens’ best of­fen­sive player early on, rush line­backer Za’Dar­ius Smith was a strong can­di­date to earn that praise on the op­po­site side of the ball. He sacked Ben­gals quar­ter­back Andy Dal­ton be­fore leav­ing the game in ob­vi­ous pain with a knee in­jury.

Har­baugh said the it didn’t prove to be as se­ri­ous as feared.

“Za’Dar­ius didn’t turn out to be that se­ri­ous,” Har­baugh said. “Man, it was a painful one. On the field, I wanted to give him a leather strap and a shot of whiskey just to deal with the pain and to get him off the field. But, he came through it OK. I do not know if he will be up for this week, but he will have a chance next week.”

Fol­low Sean Grogan on Twit­ter: @Sean_Ce­cilWhig


Bal­ti­more Ravens quar­ter­back Joe Flacco (5) at­tempts a pass against the Dal­las Cow­boys dur­ing the fourth quar­ter on Sun­day, Nov. 20, 2016 at AT&T Sta­dium in Ar­ling­ton, Texas.

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