Late For Work 8/9: Will Joe Flacco Play In Preseason Opener? His Targets Are Dwindling

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Will Joe Flacco Play In Preseason Opener?

Head Coach John Harbaugh is in midseason form when it comes to injury updates.

When asked whether quarterback Joe Flacco will play when the Ravens host the Carolina Panthers Thursday night, Harbaugh declined to give a definitive answer.

"We've decided about everybody," he said Monday. "But I'm not going to make any announcements. We're just going to play the game."

While Harbaugh didn't declare Flacco's status either way, the media doesn't think it's a strong possibility we'll see the nine-year veteran on the field.

"It seems unlikely that [Flacco] will play … especially if starting left tackle Ronnie Stanley (soft tissue injury) is also sidelined," wrote The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec.

"[I]t would be a surprise if he did," added ESPN's Jamison Hensley. "But that's not a reflection of Flacco's progress in coming back from season-ending knee surgery. Flacco is having a strong training camp, and he hasn't missed any reps with the starting offense."

There's no reason to put Flacco at risk in a preseason game, where he won't wear a non-contact red jersey like he does in training camp practices and oncoming pass rushers don't come within reach of a 10-foot pole.

With Stanley's status for Thursday also unknown, it would be rookie Alex Lewis protecting Flacco's blindside. Lewis has only taken snaps as the Ravens left tackle position for a total of 1.5 practices, and the team seems likely to err on the side of caution.

Flacco himself said his goal this summer was to prepare for the regular season, not the preseason. That's why fans should expect to see a lot of backups Ryan Mallett, Josh Johnson and Jerrod Johnson.

"I'm not ridiculously worried about playing a ton in the preseason," Flacco said at the start of training camp. "The way our practices are and the way we compete, I'm going to get plenty of work out here. I've played in a million games. And to put it at any further risk [and] to get hit in a simple early preseason game probably wouldn't be the smartest thing."

Update: John Harbaugh didn't explicitly say Tuesday morning that Flacco won't play in the opener, but strongly implied it.

"We will be common-sensical about it," Harbaugh said. "We do want to see our young players play. The only reason I say anything about Joe is I think everyone can figure out what's going to happen."

Flacco's Targets Dwindling At Receiver And Tight End

Even if Flacco played in a series or two Thursday night, there are still bigger questions surrounding his weapons at wide receiver and tight end.

The injury bug has taken its toll on the two positions, which were both considered deep heading into training camp, and Flacco is seeing his targets start to "dwindle."

"By the end of Monday's practice, the Ravens were left with just one tight end (Benjamin Watson) who wasn't injured or facing suspension, and nearly half of their wide receivers are sidelined," wrote Hensley.

Here are the tight ends currently dealing with injuries:

  • Crockett Gillmore (hamstring)
  • Dennis Pitta (finger)
  • Maxx Williams (left the field Monday with non-contact injury)
  • Daniel Brown (left practice Monday after suffering hardest hit in training camp)

That left Watson (who had a strong day Monday) practicing along with two players that will start the season with a suspension in Darren Waller and Nick Boyle.

Here are the wide receivers currently sidelined:

  • Steve Smith Sr. (Achilles)
  • Breshad Perriman (knee)
  • Chris Moore (lower leg)
  • Chris Matthews (soft tissue injury)
  • Michael Campanaro (strains)

That leaves Kamar Aiken, Mike Wallace, Kaelin Clay, Jeremy Butler, Keenan Reynolds, Dobson Collins and Chuck Jacobs. 

Harbaugh made it clear that for the bubble players at wide receiver to make the team, they will need to get on the field. He said showing potential will no longer be enough for a roster spot.

"Who is going to make the plays? If you make plays, there's a place for you on this team because we need guys out there making plays to help us win games," Harbaugh said. "That's what we're going to find out in the next couple of weeks. If you're not out there, you're not making plays. You have to show us not only that you can do it, but you're going to be there to do it."

Is Michael Campanaro's Roster Spot In Jeopardy? Keep Eye On Jeremy Butler

Given Harbaugh's call for playmakers to get on the field and stay there, outsiders are starting to look at the wide receiver battle through a different lens.

Campanaro has long been seen as a receiver who will make the team because he's a dangerous target and one of Harbaugh's favorites, but he's been absent for about half the training camp practices.

"Will [Campanaro's] latest injury cost him a roster spot on the Ravens?" asked CSNMidAtlantic.com's Clifton Brown.

"While the Ravens know Campanaro can make plays, can they afford to keep him on the roster for a third straight season if his health continues to be an issue?"

Campanaro still has time over four preseason games to prove he can stay healthy.

Meanwhile, keep your eye on a wide receiver that has stood out for multiple years in training camp, but hasn't gotten much opportunity during the regular season.

"Jeremy Butler is one of few wide receivers who has been able to stay on the field throughout training camp, and he's certainly benefited from the increased repetitions," wrote Zrebiec. "Working primarily with the starters, Butler beat Sheldon Price to make a diving touchdown catch in one-on-one drills. He then skied over two defensive backs to make another touchdown catch later in practice.

"Butler's chances of making the team improve by the day."

Undrafted Rookie Sam Brown Feels 'Real Bad' For Hard Hit On Daniel Brown

It has been dubbed the hardest hit of training camp. And the scariest moment, too.

During Monday's morning practice, undrafted rookie Sam Brown hit tight end Daniel Brown so hard in the head/neck area that Daniel Brown stayed on the ground for a few minutes and "seemed woozy" as he walked off the field, per The Baltimore Sun's Don Markus.

Markus caught up with Sam Brown after practice, and the rookie felt remorse for the dangerous, but unintentional, hit.

"In order for me to go for an interception, I had to go through the receiver it was [being] thrown to and his defender," Sam Brown said. "Everything happened so fast and late, I basically had a split second to go for the ball, protect myself. Either way, if I had went for the ball, we would have collided.

"Obviously I had seen him, but he never saw me at all. I was able to brace for it but he wasn't. No intent at all to hit him. I feel bad, I feel real bad. No intent to do that to my teammate. Next time at the last second I could try to get out of the way. I didn't think bracing would do that much [harm]. You live and you learn. I know for next time. … Coach Harbaugh was speaking to him. I went up to apologize, but I don't think he even noticed that I came up. [He] was still going through the situation with the injury. Yeah man, it was a complete accident."

Cleveland Browns Name RGIII Starting Quarterback

The Cleveland Browns have officially declared their starting quarterback for the 2016 season, and it's Robert Griffin III.

Griffin signed with the AFC North opponent in March and has been competing with Josh McCown, Austin Davis and rookie Cody Kessler for the starting gig.

"Since he was signed back in March, Robert has made it clear through his actions that he is willing to do everything that has been asked of him to earn this role," Browns Head Coach Hue Jackson said. "Throughout this process he has gained the respect from his teammates, the coaching staff and the entire organization that is necessary for him to lead our offense and really the entire team."

Cancellation Of Hall Of Fame Game Means Ravens Kick Off Preseason … Sort Of

The NFL cancelled Sunday's Hall of Fame Game between the Green Bay Packers and Indianapolis Colts due to unsafe field conditions. The paint at midfield and in the end zones was congealing and rubberized, making it too slippery for players.

The game was supposed to kick off the NFL preseason, but now all the Thursday night matchups this week will get the honors.

"Baltimore, as well as a few other teams, will be the ones to kick off the new season on Thursday night," wrote Baltimore Beatdown's Matthew Cohen.

The other Thursday night games also include Redskins-Falcons, Bucs-Eagles, Saints-Patriots, Jaguars-Jets and Broncos-Bears.

"Football is, finally, almost here," wrote Cohen.

Quick Hits

Listening to @ESPN and @nflnetwork talk smack about Joe Flacco pic.twitter.com/9pI9cohItW — Purple Reign (@PurpleReignShow) August 9, 2016

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