Quarterback Joe Flacco first heard people questioning the leadership on the Ravens when training camp started two months ago.
It didn’t bother him then and he seemed equally unaffected that the latest person to do it — player-turned-ESPN analyst Ray Lewis — is a friend and former teammate.
“Ray knows better than that,” Flacco said in a dismissive tone. “Things happen. I think we’re usually a pretty good team with [off-the-field] stuff like that. If you look around the league, there are probably a lot of leadership problems then. So, like I said, Ray knows better.”
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As the Ravens returned to practice and accelerated their preparations for Sunday’s game against the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium, the players said that they have moved on from an incident early Monday morning in which Jacoby Jones was hit in the head by a bottle after celebrating teammate Bryant McKinnie’s birthday at a Washington night club.
Jones, who is dealing with a knee injury and will miss his third straight game against the Bills, and McKinnie were unavailable for comment Wednesday. However, Jones did address the incident on his radio show on 105.7 The Fan on Wednesday night.
"I'm going to take the responsibility that I was in the wrong place at the wrong time," Jones said. "There was no altercation. There's nothing wrong. I did nothing wrong but I take responsibility for being in wrong place at the wrong time. Enough said. I apologize to my teammates and everybody."
Asked about the meeting that he had with head coach John Harbaugh, Jones said, "We're fine. Everything is good."
Earlier Wednesday, Jones' teammates were left to address questions about the team's leadership.
“Everybody has to take responsibility for their own actions, whether it's good or bad,” Ravens defensive end Marcus Spears said. “We're grown men in this locker room. I'm pretty sure those guys know how to respond and react to whatever the situation was and move on from it.”
The Jones’ incident prompted Lewis, speaking before the Denver Broncos-Oakland Raiders game on ESPN on Monday night, to say that the Ravens are “missing leadership right now.
“When you talk about what's going on off the field, that's the most important place where leadership steps up,” Lewis said. “When you have an incident like that, the first thing a leader is going to do is find some way to dissolve everything that's going on and actually dissolve it before it comes to that type of head or even gets to that point. When you talk about the Baltimore Ravens, they're going to have to refocus and find some quick leaders in that locker room very quickly.”
Ravens rush linebacker Terrell Suggs, the longest tenured player of the team and the guy who is now considered the defensive leader following the departure of Lewis and Ed Reed, said that he texted with Lewis this morning and he and his current teammates are “just having fun” with the retired linebacker’s recent comments.
Both Suggs and Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda did defend the leadership of the team but they were careful to not say anything that could be perceived as a slight toward Lewis.
“I didn’t hear the comments, but no, it doesn’t bother me, because we all understand the leadership that we have with our team guys and our team,” Yanda said. “Obviously, Ray, he was a huge vocal leader and stuff like that and very enthusiastic, and we all love him and miss him. But it’s going to be a different type of leadership [now], obviously. Nobody is going to be able to just jump into Ray Lewis’ role and just try to be exactly the same. But we all have a lot of really good leaders on this team, and we’re not sweating it one bit.”
On Tuesday, third-year Ravens’ wide receiver Torrey Smith and veteran fullback Vonta Leach were both dismissive of Lewis’ comment with Smith calling it a “joke” that a random off-the-field incident would imply that there is a leadership issue with the team.
However, Flacco, who has never minded exchanging playful jabs with Lewis, agreed with that sentiment. He also said that the incident involving Jones, which resulted in no significant injuries or charges filed, was a non-issue.
“When you get the information of what happened, it just is what it is,” Flacco said. “You laugh about it, kind of. It’s funny some of the things that we deal with. I don’t really have too many comments on it, because they’d all be taken the wrong way and out of context. But it’s not really an issue.
“Listen, [leadership is] important. You’ve got to just make sure talking about the right things, which is game play and things like that, how we are in the locker room during the week. People are going to go out and do things after games and celebrate and do that kind of stuff. Everybody cannot be everywhere, and nobody can prevent crazy things from happening. Stuff is going to happen, and you’ve just got to deal with it.”
Asked if it was weird that it was Lewis, who was just inducted into the Ravens’ Ring of Honor at halftime of Sunday’s game, making the criticism rather than some other NFL pundit, Flacco said, “Ray is one of them for a couple of minutes a week now. It is what it is.”
Ravens coach John Harbaugh said that he spoke to the team Monday about the incident. He also has repeatedly praised the leadership on his team which bounced back from a 49-27 season-opening loss to the Denver Broncos to defeat the Cleveland Browns and Houston Texans.
Flacco, the most valuable player in Super Bowl XLVII, has clearly taken on a more vocal role at the team facility and that was evident Wednesday in his response to Lewis, However, other Ravens’ veterans made it clear that it’s just not on the quarterback.
“We’ve got a lot of leaders on this team,” Suggs said. “I don’t think that’s one thing we stress a lot in the locker room [saying], ‘This is that … I’m the leader.’ We don’t worry about that. We worry about what we’re trying to do as a team. We have a lot of leaders on this team, and we like it that way.”