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John Harbaugh Never Seriously Considered Pulling Joe Flacco

Posted Jan 1, 2014

But Harbaugh can’t explain why running back Ray Rice wasn’t in the Bengals game earlier.

Joe Flacco was limping. He screamed out in pain after taking a hit in the first half.

But he wasn’t coming out of the Ravens’ critical Week 17 game in Cincinnati, which would decide their playoff fate.

Head Coach John Harbaugh was asked whether he ever seriously considered yanking Flacco because of his knee injury.

“No,” Harbaugh said. But it did cross his mind, only to make sure he was weighing all options.

 “It’s not that you don’t consider it,” he said.

“It’s not that I’m not watching it and considering where Joe is at. Every time I asked Joe how he is doing, he said, ‘Fine. I’m good.’ I know Joe well enough to understand what that means. He’s basically saying, ‘I don’t want to hear it. I’m going to play. You’re not taking me out of the game.’” 

Flacco has never missed a start in five years, nor missed even any significant snaps either. He’s only been replaced in garbage time

Flacco played through a badly bruised leg during the 2010 playoffs, and was gutting it out on an injured knee for the Ravens’ final two regular-season games this year. He said the hit that made him scream out in pain “just hurt for a while – that’s all.”

“It actually probably loosened it up for a couple series after that, once it kind of settled down for a bit,” Flacco said.

Harbaugh trusts Flacco to give him honest feedback on his health during a game.

“If he was seriously hurt, he would let me know that, too. If he couldn’t go, if he couldn’t perform,” Harbaugh said.

“If he says he’s fine and I don’t think he’s performing; if it’s really hindering him that much – as a coach, it’s your responsibility to pull them out. I didn’t see that. I feel like he was our best chance, especially in the Cincinnati game. It looked like he was moving around pretty well. The answer is, no, not at any time did we consider [taking him out] seriously.”

Backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor had replaced Flacco late in the game against New England the week before.

Taylor had an errant snap bounce of his hands and be it was recovered by the Bengals in the end zone for a touchdown. He also threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown. He completed 1-of-4 passes for 2 yards, and ran three times for 39 yards.

Harbaugh was perplexed by another decision last Sunday, however.

As of Tuesday, he didn’t have an explanation for why running back Ray Rice went so long in the first half without action against the Bengals.

The Ravens handed off to Rice for a 1-yard gain on their first offensive play of the game. He didn’t get another touch until the first play of the second half. Rice ran for no gain.

Baltimore instead used backup Bernard Pierce and even No. 3 running back Bernard Scott in the first half.

“I really can’t explain that adequately right now, in all honesty,” Harbaugh said. “That was something that happened during the game that, when I looked over and saw it, I put him back in the game. So, I don’t have an answer for you right now. He should have been out there.”

Rice spoke to riding the bench after Sunday’s game.

“It was a lot of situational football, backed up situational football. They put in the guys that would give us a chance to get out,” he said.

“In the second half, I was fully ready to go and had the leg warmed up. When you’ve got these muscular kind of [injuries] you can’t just crank it up right away and go. We thought both Bernards gave us a shot to get us out of situational football. I think they did a good job.”

Rice ran six times in the game for 15 yards, including an impressive run to the sideline to convert on a two-point conversion that tied the game at 17 in the third quarter. He caught seven passes for 35 yards.


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