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Life Without Joe Flacco Begins For Ravens


Monday night will mark the first time the Ravens play a football game without Joe Flacco since Dec. 30, 2007.

On Wednesday, it was one of the first practices without Flacco since that time too. He once missed a regular-season practice because his kids got him sick. That may be all that kept him from perfect attendance.

Life without Flacco officially began with Wednesday's practice. As the 30-year-old veteran limped around the Under Armour Performance Center with a big knee brace under his sweats, waiting for the swelling in his torn ACL and MCL to go down before surgery, Matt Schaub prepared to be the Ravens' starting quarterback.

And, according to teammates, it was a little weird without No. 5. Guard Marshal Yanda and punter Sam Koch are the only players who have played a Ravens game without Flacco.

"It's definitely different," Yanda said. "It's just going to be different; that's just the way it is."

So will Schaub be ready and capable?

Schaub has plenty of experience, which helps in this situation. He was the Houston Texans' starter for seven seasons, including two Pro Bowl years in which he threw for more than 4,000 yards each. He has 90 starts under his belt.

"Matt's done a great job already commanding the huddle and getting us going," tight end Crockett Gillmore said. "It is a change, a different face and different voice, but still the same demeanor. It's still a guy that knows what he's doing, been around the league a long time. He's been to the Pro Bowl. He's been everything you could ask for."

With that said, Schaub hasn't started a game since 2013. He was a backup in Oakland last year and hasn't seen a snap with the Ravens this year. Given Flacco's track record, Schaub wasn't expecting to see any action this season.

But as the No. 2 quarterback, he knew he needed to stay engaged. And that he did.

Head Coach John Harbaugh commended Schaub's work ethic and professionalism. While Schaub has had to adjust to being a full-time backup for the first time in his career, he's taken it in stride and remained very invested.

"I know one thing, I come in here about 5:30ish in the morning and many times he's walking right in with me," Harbaugh said. "I think we're very fortunate to have him in this situation that we're going into. I'm sure glad we got him."

Schaub is a student. During all of the Ravens' games this season, he's worn an ear piece that has allowed him to hear the play calls and get mental reps. He looks at the way the defense is lining up and predicts where Flacco should and will throw the ball.

"Just talking to [Schaub], I honestly feel like he could coach this offense," Gillmore said. "He could really, truly install it every day and be the coach. So when it comes time to have him out there, there's definitely not a loss of knowledge."

Schaub struggled with interceptions during some training camp practices, which drew some snarky comments from outside linebacker Terrell Suggs. But Schaub rebounded with three solid preseason performances. Harbaugh said Schaub has been practicing well.

"He's competitive," outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil said. "I know from the looks we've been having the past few weeks up to this point, he has been giving us great looks on defense. I know one thing he's going to do: he's going to go out and compete and try to earn a win."

For Schaub, the rest of the season is an opportunity to turn around his career.

After being one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, Schaub had a brutal final year in Houston (2013) in which he threw 14 interceptions to 10 touchdowns. He had a troubling knack for throwing pick-sixes.

Schaub was traded to Oakland, but couldn't wrestle the starting job from rookie Derek Carr. He threw 10 passes the entire year and was picked off twice and sacked three times.

"Whether you're a starter or a backup, you have to prove every day that you belong," Schaub said Wednesday.

Schaub said it's been a "whirlwind couple of days," but an exciting experience at the same time. He said he'll have to keep his emotions in check because it feels invigorating.

"Good anxiety for the fact that I'm excited to get back out on the field, get back out there in the huddle," Schaub said. "It's unfortunate the circumstances that it's under with Joe and his injury, but I'm really looking forward to getting out there."

Schaub's first test will be Monday Night Football against the Cleveland Browns. It's not the Flacco-Johnny Manziel billing ESPN was hoping for, but it's an interesting storyline for Schaub and could provide some fireworks.

Harbaugh and Schaub said the offense won't change much with Schaub. When mobile Tyrod Taylor was Flacco's backup, the Ravens would have switched their mentality. Schaub is very much in Flacco's mold. The primary difference is he doesn't have Flacco's arm.

"He may not have the ability to roll left and throw it 80 yards to the right, but there's probably not many machines that could do that either. Joe's a different breed with that," Gillmore said. "As far as the deep ball, a post or corner, those throws [Schaub] can make all day, and he's been making them."

Considering Baltimore got into a shootout with the Browns in Week 5, eventually losing 33-30 in overtime, Schaub agreed with a reporter that he can't afford to have any rust.

"You have to do whatever you can to shake it off here at practice and go out, take a deep breath and go out and cut it loose on Monday night," Schaub said. "That's what this game is all about."

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