Carroll County Times
Carroll County Sports

It's 'Next Man Up' for all of us

This is the time of year that all of the Joe Flacco haters come out of the woodwork to blame the team's deficiencies on the Super Bowl MVP quarterback, and that's in the years when the Ravens are playing well.

This year, when the team is falling short of Sports Illustrated's Super Bowl-winning projections, there's no doubt in my mind you'll start hearing people saying they should tank the season and use their high draft pick to draft a "real" quarterback.


I understand the frustrations some times when I see No. 5 make a bad decision on throwing the ball away or throw a pick-six at a crucial time during the game. But it's not really about that, is it?

It's about the fact that he signed a blockbuster $120 million deal on the heels of his Super Bowl MVP performance that some feel takes away from the team's ability to sign new players. Fans would still be complaining if Baltimore paid him $15/hour, but with that kind of deal, he's an easy target.


If you check Flacco's salary-cap hit against the others this year, you'll find he falls in to a modest 12th place behind other Super Bowl winners Ben Roethlisberger, Russell Wilson, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, and Peyton Manning. But he's also perched behind the quarterback he beat in the Super Bowl, Colin Kaepernick, and a few other quarterbacks — Matt Ryan, Philip Rivers, Matthew Stafford, Jay Cutler, Alex Smith and Tony Romo — whose best chance of being in a Super Bowl is if Joe Cool leaves them complimentary tickets at the gate.

The team's lack of success this year has little to do with Flacco's $14 million cap hit and everything to do with the injury bug. He'll never use it as an excuse, but Flacco has been working without a No. 1 or 2 receiver for weeks and this week's injury report shows two receivers out for the game (Perriman and Waller) and the starting running back (Forsett), two more receivers (Smith, Givens), tight end (Gillmore), and future Ring of Honor lineman (Yanda) as questionable against the 49ers.

That's just on the offensive side of the ball. The injury bug has devastated the Ravens defense losing the heart of the team — T-Sizzle — for the season, and Terrence Brooks, Chris Canty, Elvis Dumervil, and Lardarius Webb (talk about a salary cap hit) are in various stages of questionable to out for Sunday's game in San Francisco.

But you know, injuries are a huge part of the game not only in the National Football League but in every organized and non-organized sports league all the way down to Pee Wee League football and pockets lacrosse.

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Although all teams have to choose their starting position players and make substitutions based on the rules of the game and the availability of others on their roster, most coaches will set up practice and training sessions to benefit all of the players so that if and when the opportunity presents itself, even the bench players will be ready to perform to the best of their abilities.

One of my coaching friends once told me that adversity creates opportunity for some players but that the responsibility to be ready when that time arrives falls squarely on the shoulders of the player himself. When a coach is looking at his roster or down his bench to make his next substitution, what we see is a collection of preparedness or lack thereof that stems from their efforts the last time they got "their chance," their effort in recent training sessions, the player's overall attitude, and their ability to perform the duties of the position we need to replace.

One of the worst things a player can do is to be a malcontent on the bench or figure they're not going to play so why work hard in practice and just go through the motions. It's human nature to be disappointed in not getting enough playing time on the field in critical situations; in fact, if a player is not disappointed then I'm not sure that I want them on my roster in the first place.

But you owe it to your teammates to be ready to go when your chance to get on the field presents itself. Every single player on a roster plays an important part of the success of the team and it's up to you to decide whether you are going to contribute to that success if given the chance or to be the one the coaches are forced to look past.


Whether you are jumping on the Flacco-haters bandwagon or trying to make an impression on your coaches to give you your chance, just remember these three words: "Next Man Up."