With No Setbacks, Joe Flacco Is Ready to Roll. Now Will His Back Stay Strong?

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Quarterback Joe Flacco passed the first test. He went through a heavy workload in his first practice last Saturday and didn't have any setbacks in terms of back pain.

He will play, as promised, in Sunday's regular-season opener in Cincinnati.

"I feel good and I feel ready to go," Flacco said Wednesday. "It's been a very long and boring break."

It's been difficult for Flacco to sit out and watch his teammates practice. In addition to his rehab, all he's been able to do is run mental reps and study film of the Cincinnati Bengals.

"You can go crazy, that's for sure," Flacco said.

Flacco still can't pinpoint how he injured his back while at home before training camp. Doctors said it could have even been a previous injury from which he never felt any symptoms.

With that said, Flacco's not surprised that he missed all of training camp and the preseason after finding out his back pain was in his lower back.

It's always been a waiting game since then. Doctors told Flacco and the Ravens that if he gave his back enough rest, he would assuredly be back in time for the regular-season opener and shouldn't have lingering problems throughout the season.

"No setbacks at all in the whole process," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "As we said all along, that was the main thing was no setbacks. If there were no setbacks, we were assured he would be ready to go. He's ready to roll."

Flacco said he would have lobbied to take the field had the back injury popped up in the middle of a season rather than at the start of training camp and the preseason, when games don't count.

"It wasn't something that was completely crippling to the point that if it were the Super Bowl I couldn't play," Flacco said. "So I don't think I was ever really worried about [not playing against Cincinnati]."

The next health question is whether his back will continue to feel good after he takes some hits. Getting through a practice without pain is good, but his teammates aren't hitting him.

Harbaugh said that, as far as he knows, there is not increased danger of Flacco re-injuring his back at this point. Flacco said he's not sure whether he's any more vulnerable at this point.

"I really don't know the actual answer to that," he said. "But yes, given the time that we've given to heal, the idea is that I shouldn't have to deal with it moving forward."

Is he somewhat looking forward to getting that first hit and shaking it off?

"Usually you're getting hit and you don't see the guy and you're just getting off the ground and not really realizing it," Flacco said. "So I'm either going to be doing that and have no thought about it, or I'm going to be hurting and thinking about it. Either way, it is what it is."

Heading into his 10th season at 32 years old, Flacco has only missed six games over his career. They all came in 2015 after he tore his ACL. He still took a few snaps after shredding his knee, just to close out a win.

The Ravens are confident they'll continue to have Flacco under center. Ryan Mallett is the backup, and the team didn't keep a third quarterback on the 53-man roster or practice squad. Harbaugh said the team won't add a third quarterback – at least not this week.

"We have two healthy quarterbacks and we're ready to roll," Harbaugh said.

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