OWINGS MILLS, MD. — A magnetic resonance imaging exam confirmed Joe Flacco suffered two torn ligaments in his left knee in Sunday’s game, but the Ravens remain hopeful that their franchise quarterback will be ready for the start of next year’s training camp.
Head coach John Harbaugh said Monday that surgery to repair the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments won’t take place until after the swelling subsides in Flacco’s knee over the next week or two. However, the early prognosis suggests the Ravens won’t need to drastically alter their plans for the quarterback position in 2016.
“It’s probably way early and, obviously, speculative,” Harbaugh said. “But my indications that I’ve been given would be that he would be back for the start of training camp and that it wouldn’t be an issue. However, as we well know, those are always things that get determined based on how the rehab goes.”
Conventional projections suggest a recovery period of nine to 12 months for tears to the ACL and MCL, but some athletes have made it back sooner depending on a variety of factors including how rigorously they rehab. Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer suffered a torn ACL on Nov. 9, 2014 and was fully cleared to participate in the Cardinals’ minicamp this past June, a recovery that took only seven months. Palmer knew what to expect after suffering the second ACL tear of his career, but he is also five years older than Flacco, who said Sunday that he’d never suffered more than a MCL sprain before.
Though his mobility and speed are underrated, Flacco isn’t a quarterback who has relied heavily on his legs as he ran the ball just 13 times in 10 games this season. The rehabilitation process isn’t quite as challenging for a quarterback compared to a skill position player like a wide receiver or cornerback who depends on constant changes in direction and quick lateral movement.
“Joe can run and he’s athletic, but if there is some drop-off, that’s not the main thing for the quarterback,” Harbaugh said. “He’s certainly going to have plenty enough athleticism, even if there is some drop-off there. The way technology is, guys bounce back from these things really well and I have every expectation that he’ll bounce back 100 percent and be stronger than ever and be ready to roll next year and be in great shape like he always is. That’s a long way away, but right now, there’s no reason to think he won’t come back better than ever.”
While the Ravens look forward to having Flacco return next season, they will now face the reality of playing a regular-season game without him for the first time since Dec. 30, 2007 when he was still a senior at the University of Delaware. His streak of 137 consecutive starts (counting playoff games) will officially come to an end Monday night when veteran Matt Schaub starts against Cleveland.
For his head coach and most of his teammates, it will be uncharted territory not having Flacco under center. The 34-year-old Schaub, a two-time Pro Bowl selection with Houston, will become only the second starting quarterback of the Harbaugh era.
It won’t be an easy chore for a 3-7 team that was already highly unlikely to move back into the playoff race, but the Ravens will still try to push through their biggest injury to date.
“I don’t know how many coaches have had that kind of a run with their quarterbacks,” Harbaugh said. “It’s definitely been a great blessing and something I’ve been very grateful for over the years — all of us here. Not just the [head] coach but all the coaches and all the players and the organization have had that remarkable run with a quarterback that just has really stayed healthy. He’s been an iron man.
“This will be a change for all of us and something that will be a big challenge for us. It’s a challenge I wouldn’t say we’re looking forward to — we’d rather it not be the case — but we’re not going to shy away from it.”