The Ravens have already endured a litany of injuries since the start of spring workouts, but the eve of training camp brought an unsettling development for their most important player.
According to multiple outlets, quarterback Joe Flacco will miss the start of camp with a disc issue in his back. It remains uncertain how long the 10th-year signal-caller will be out, but an NFL Network report suggested he could miss as much as three to six weeks, which wouldn’t leave a great deal of time ahead of the Sept. 10 season opener.
The Ravens have yet to comment publicly on Flacco’s health or status, but head coach John Harbaugh is scheduled to speak with the media after the first full-squad practice of the summer on Thursday morning. A recent media advisory sent out by the team’s public relations staff had Flacco scheduled to meet with reporters Friday, but it’s unclear whether that session will still take place.
The Super Bowl XLVII Most Valuable Player hadn’t missed a game in his career until tearing the ACL and MCL in his left knee in the latter half of the 2015 season and missing the final six games. Flacco, 32, returned for the start of training camp last year and started all 16 games, but he missed some practice time with a tender shoulder ahead of the Week 7 loss to the New York Jets.
Though eclipsing the 4,000-yard mark for the first time in his career, Flacco is coming off a down season in which he threw only 20 touchdowns and averaged 6.4 yards per pass attempt, which ranked 27th out of 30 qualified quarterbacks. The Ravens are counting on a bounce-back campaign to help them return to the playoffs for the first time since 2014.
“He is the guy that makes the whole offense go,” said wide receiver Mike Wallace on Wednesday before word of Flacco’s back discomfort surfaced. “Just getting more time with him and him being healthy the whole offseason and being able to work with him even more just puts us in a better position and a better place.
“Even though I think from Day 1 last year in training camp, he was ready to go, but just for him to be healthy and not have to worry about his knee at all and just get the time from Day 1 and [organized team activities] and everything, we all feel more confident.”
Of course, back problems can be volatile, so the Ravens will want to be cautious with their franchise quarterback at this early stage of the summer.
The injury leaves Baltimore with just two healthy quarterbacks — backup Ryan Mallett and the little-known Dustin Vaughan — for the start of camp. Even if Flacco were only to miss a week or two, the Ravens would likely prefer to add another quarterback to merely share practice reps.
A longer absence would bring a more compelling discussion as media and fans were already speculating Wednesday evening about the possibility of the Ravens adding veteran Colin Kaepernick, whose continued unemployment has led many to believe he’s been blackballed by the NFL after choosing not to stand for the national anthem as a form of protest during the 2016 season. In addition to playing for Jim Harbaugh in San Francisco, Kaepernick was tutored by current Ravens senior offensive assistant Greg Roman, the 49ers’ offensive coordinator from 2011-2014.
The Flacco news came just a day after second-year running back Kenneth Dixon underwent season-ending knee surgery. Baltimore also lost cornerback Tavon Young (knee) and tight end Dennis Pitta (hip) to season-ending injuries during spring OTAs. Tight end Darren Waller was also suspended for a year for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy.