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Joe Flacco Is Disappointed, But Handles Backup Role Like a Pro

When Joe Flacco came to work Tuesday and got a text come up to Head Coach John Harbaugh's office, he knew what it meant.

Harbaugh had put off making the final call, but with Flacco now healthy enough to play again, the decision had to be made and discussions had to be had. A day later, Harbaugh went ahead and announced it to the football world.

Lamar Jackson is the starter and Flacco the backup. It's the end an 11-year run with Flacco as the Ravens' No. 1 quarterback.

Stepping back, it's a monumental day in Ravens franchise history, but in the moment, it's a not-all-that-surprising one.

"I don't know if it was the hardest conversation because, I think in both of our minds, we probably knew that the talk was coming at some point," Flacco said. "I can't say I was surprised.

"I guess my overall thought about it is obviously disappointed that I can't be a part of this team in the same capacity that I have been for a long time."

After Flacco went down with a hip injury on Nov. 4, Jackson led them to three straight wins, then played perhaps his best game yet in Kansas City to take the AFC's top team to overtime.

With Jackson, the Ravens offense has gained an old-school ground-and-pound, clock-controlling identity with a new-school run-pass option twist. Baltimore's top defense has been made even better by being fresher.

Jackson hasn't been perfect (what rookie is?), but the overall effect on the team has been undoubtedly positive.

"Every decision is based on what makes us the strongest possible team we can be – whether it's quarterback or defensive line or whatever – and that's the bottom line," Harbaugh said.

Flacco isn't blind to it all. When the Ravens drafted Jackson in the first round this year, Flacco knew that, at some point, a decision would have to be made. Baltimore looked at Jackson's rookie season as a developmental year with him contributing as an occasional change-of-pace weapon. Flacco's injury sped that timeline up.

Flacco was hoping to play well enough to stave his replacement off as long as possible, and did a good job of it early in the year, but the offense stalled, an injury happened and the door opened for the talented rookie.

Flacco badly wanted to get back on the field after the Ravens' bye. He said he didn't feel all that bad, and he's gutted through countless injuries during his career. But there was just too much risk of a more serious hip injury, Flacco said.

"I definitely wanted to get out there and be there for my guys that next week," Flacco said. "It's definitely one of the hardest things I've done in my career: standing on the sidelines, being inactive and not being a part of it the way you want to. But it's just one of those things where you have to do what your body is telling you."

Standing on the sideline for Jackson's first start on Nov. 18, knowing he could potentially play, seemed like a more difficult day for Flacco than the day he was told he was now a backup. The only starts he had ever missed were in 2015 when he tore his ACL.

"I want to play football, so it's been different the last four weeks," Flacco said. "It's obviously going to take some getting used to."

With all that said, Flacco and Harbaugh know that Flacco could be back under center again. Jackson has exited both of the past two games due to injuries, or at least concern of one (concussion). His style makes him more susceptible to taking hits, making a good backup even more valuable.

No team in the NFL will have a better backup than Flacco – the Super Bowl XLVII MVP and winner of 10 career playoff games, second-most in the NFL since 2008 only behind New England's Tom Brady. The Ravens know they are in good hands if something were to happen to Jackson down the stretch.

"[I'm] just trying to stay excited about what my role is and the possibilities that may bring," Flacco said. "Anything can happen in this league very quickly."

Of course, this move signals what's likely to come this offseason. The Ravens will presumably not keep Flacco and his $26.5 million contract, per Spotrac, to be Jackson's backup. As Flacco said, it's only natural for people around him to talk about what his next move could be.

"There's plenty of months in the NFL offseason to think about what it's going to mean and all that," Flacco said. "But for now, like I said, I'm excited in what I can do and how I can help this group out."

Flacco was complimentary of the job Jackson has done. Jackson completed 13 of 24 passes for 147 yards and two touchdowns in Kansas City. He leads the Ravens in rushing yards (475).

Jackson does the job a lot differently from Flacco, and the Ravens' offense has completely changed on a dime since the rookie took over, but it's moving the ball well.

"I think he's done a great job," Flacco said. "I'm really happy for what he's been able to go out there and do. We're winning football games."

Jackson said Flacco has been assisting him in meetings, though Flacco hasn't said much to Jackson on the sideline during games and likely won't. Flacco said his only advice for Jackson would be to be more patient and let the game come to him instead of trying to do too much and make a play.

While Jackson played well in Kansas City, he fumbled on a blindside sack late in the fourth quarter and was sacked and injured in overtime on the Ravens' final drive. Flacco has led plenty of late game-winning drives over the years. On Sunday in Arrowhead, he had to stand by and watch the rookie try to get his first.

While Harbaugh's decision didn't surprise Flacco, it still isn't an easy one to swallow. It's just that Flacco has had five weeks to think about it, and so has Harbaugh.

So when both were asked whether they got sentimental when talking about the decision, given all that they've been through together since 2008, they both flatly said "no."

"I'm not a very sentimental person anyway," Flacco said with a grin. "This is my situation right now, and I'm going to do my best to handle it the right way."

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