You Won't Believe What Hardcore Flacco Did, And Internet Has Mad Respect
Quarterback Joe Flacco heard "crunches" in his knee. Teammate James Hurst heard Flacco "scream" out in pain.
Flacco had two torn ligaments, and yet he stayed on the field for the final three offensive plays of the game-winning drive. Yes, despite a completely shredded knee, the Ravens franchise quarterback got his team into field-goal range for kicker Justin Tucker to get the victory.
He didn't have to throw the ball or scramble from pressure. He handed the ball off twice and then spiked it. But it's not like Flacco was playing in the Super Bowl, or even a playoff game, or even a game that might put them into playoff contention.
The Ravens simply improved to a 3-7 record.
Why the heck didn't Flacco just come off the field?
"Because he knew if he comes off, now we have clock issues," said Head Coach John Harbaugh.
"I told the team he's an absolute iron man, warrior-type of a player out there," Harbaugh added. "I think it was a courageous performance by [him] at the end."
True to Joe Cool's typical form, he downplayed his gutsy performance.
"I didn't know what was wrong," Flacco said. "The fact that I was able to hop up and head toward the sideline, I said, 'Oh OK, let's hang out here and see what I can do.' I don't know if that's the best thing, but it's just a reaction."
The internet didn't downplay it. To the contrary, it spewed plenty of praise:
"Now that's a testament to his toughness and willingness to win," wrote Baltimore Beatdown's Nathan Beaucage. "Joe Flacco isn't your average quarterback. He's a tough guy, and one who has never missed a game in his NFL career."
"Philip Rivers became legendary for playing on a torn ACL in the playoffs," wrote ProFootballTalk.com's Darin Gantt. "What Joe Flacco did yesterday might not carry the same importance, but it was just as tough."
Will Flacco Return In Time For 2016 Season?
Given the timing and severity of Flacco's injury – in Week 11 and not one, but two, torn ligaments – it's fair to ask if Flacco will be ready to play at the start of the 2016 season.
According to CBSSports.com's Jason La Canfora, Flacco will have an MRI today to learn the extent of the injury, but he said to expect a "long absence." Flacco will likely miss all of the Ravens' offseason workouts, and could miss all of training camp and the preseason too.
La Canfora believes the "best case" scenario would be a return right around the start of next season, "but this could be an injury that carries into 2016."
If you need a dose of optimism, just look to Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer. He tore his ACL at about this same time last year – in November during Week 10 – and returned in time for the start of the 2015 season. He is one of the league's best quarterbacks so far this year.
There are plenty of other examples of successful comebacks.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady tore his ACL and MCL in the 2008 season opener and returned to practice nearly nine months later. Vikings running back Adrian Peterson tore both ligaments in December of 2011 and played every regular season game in 2012. Heck, take a look at the Ravens' own players. Defensive back Terrence Brooks tore the same ligaments last December and got on the field for the third preseason game.
ESPN injury analyst Stephania Bell says it is reasonable for Flacco to be back Week 1, but added that there are some nuances to his injury that could complicate things.
Bell told ESPN's Jamison Hensley, "Doctors can surgically repair Flacco's medial collateral ligament or they can opt to let that ligament scar over to avoid a procedure before proceeding to the ACL. So, this all affects the overall timetable.
" … Flacco's recovery schedule ultimately comes down to how he heals and if he can avoid setbacks. There could be concern about how much Flacco can do when training camp begins in late July, but the likely projection is he'll be ready to start the 2016 season or close to it."
How Does This Affect Contract Negotiations? Should Ravens Sign Another Starter?
Flacco's injury is bound to have some type of effect on the contract negotiations he's expected to have with the Ravens front office this offseason.
As of right now, Flacco is scheduled to count $28.55 million against the salary cap next year, and the plan has always been for the two sides to find a more manageable number so his contract isn't prohibitive in upgrading other areas of the roster. After all, that's scheduled to be the third-highest cap number in the league next season.
"His injury might complicate those negotiations and force the Ravens to consider drafting or signing a potential starting quarterback this offseason," wrote The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec.
"Drafting or signing" another starting *QB? *That almost sounds like blasphemy since Flacco has never missed a start in 137 consecutive games (including playoffs). But, just like the Ravens drafted two insurance policies when Dennis Pitta went down with a second hip injury, it may not be a bad idea in this case either.
As of right now, the negotiations aren't that high on the list of concerns.
"Per a team source, the Ravens are confident that they’ll work out a mutually-acceptable revision to the Flacco contract," wrote ProFootballTalk.com's Mike Florio. "They believe Flacco will work with them to make his contract fit within the parameters of the overall cap. A better cap situation overall for the team in 2016 will make that an easier task.
"Still, and as the source pointed out, the cap number is the least of the team's concerns. For now, the focus will be getting Flacco's knee fixed and starting the long, arduous process of getting him ready to play again, whenever that may be."
Ravens Now Favorites To Get No. 1 Overall Draft Pick
Prior to losing both Flacco and Forsett for the season, there had been rumblings of the Ravens getting a top-10 draft pick. Shoot, maybe even a selection in the top 5 was conceivable.
As of this morning, the Ravens hold the No. 4 overall pick, with the Cleveland Browns (2-8) at the top, followed by the San Diego Chargers (2-8) and Tennessee Titans (2-8).
At this point, Hensley believes the Ravens are the favorites to receive a pick that General Manager Ozzie Newsome has never had before .
"This] officially makes the Ravens a [favorite to land the No. 1 overall pick in the draft," wrote Hensley. "With Flacco, the Ravens could hold out hope for a late-season run to respectability. Without him, Baltimore is a shell of a team that many believed would be a Super Bowl contender.
" … The Ravens might have had a chance to upset the Browns or Dolphins or Chiefs with Flacco. Now, no one would be stunned if Baltimore lost its final six games."
The Ravens have lost too many key players for pundits to reasonably expect Baltimore to overcome them week in and week out.
Steve Smith Reacts To Forsett's Gruesome Injury
It's crazy how little attention is being paid to running back Justin Forsett and the two broken bones in his forearm. Only losing Flacco could overshadow as big of a loss as Forsett.
The TV broadcast showed Forsett's forearm bent in half. The image was enough to allow teammate Steve Smith Sr., who is not a doctor, to immediately diagnose the end to Forsett's season.
Does This Change Things For Steve Smith?
Speaking of Smith, there's been hope that he would reverse his announcement to retire this offseason. Given his competitive nature, some believe he wouldn't want to end his 15-year career with an Achilles tendon tear.
But if his quarterback is working back from a season-ending injury of his own, would that be the final motivation to go ahead and hang up his cleats?
Who Will Be Ravens' New Backup Quarterback?
As quarterback Matt Schaub moves into the starting role, that leaves punter Sam Koch as the primary backup.
Harbaugh joked in the post-game presser yesterday that he's not exactly comfortable with that situation, so the Ravens will look to the market for a new backup. CSNMidAtlantic.com's Clifton Brown named five possibilities:
Jason Campbell:The Ravens reportedly wanted to sign Campbell this offseason, but he seems content in retirement after a 10-year NFL career. A phone call wouldn't hurt.Rex Grossman:The 35-year-old veteran is available after the Atlanta Falcons released him in September.
Christian Ponder: The 2012 first-round pick is sitting on the market after he was cut by the Oakland Raiders in August. He started 36 games for the Minnesota Vikings, amassing 6,658 yards, 38 touchdowns and 36 interceptions.
Bryn Renner:This is a former Ravens practice-squader who has some experience in the system and became a popular player in Baltimore after a strong preseason that included an impressive game-winning drive.* *
Keith Wenning:The Ravens would have to pluck Wenning from the Cincinnati Bengals' practice squad, but he was originally drafted by Baltimore in 2014 (sixth round).