Ravens starting quarterback Joe Flacco is reportedly suffering from a hip injury that could threaten his availability for the team’s crucial Nov. 18 game against the Cincinnati Bengals and force a change under center.
The severity of the injury is unclear, according to multiple reports, but it could lead to rookie Lamar Jackson’s first start in Baltimore. The Ravens (4-5) are off this week and next host the Bengals in Week 11.
Flacco appeared to injure his hip during the Ravens’ first drive in their 23-16 loss Sunday to the Pittsburgh Steelers, their third straight defeat. On a play that was called back for an offside penalty, Steelers defensive end Stephon Tuitt hit Flacco in the back and knocked him to the ground, with Flacco appearing to land on his midsection.
On the next play, Pittsburgh defensive end Cameron Heyward hit Flacco as he attempted a pass, though not as forcefully as Tuitt had. Flacco’s first undisturbed pass attempt, on the ensuing third-and-8, was short and wide left of wide receiver Michael Crabtree, who was running a deep out.
Flacco finished 23-for-37 for 206 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions. In his postgame news conference, Flacco was asked whether the hit he’d taken in the first series had affected him. He said it hadn’t, although he appeared to be in discomfort on the sideline for much of the first half.
An injury would only add to the clamor for the Ravens to make a change at quarterback. Entering the weekend, Flacco is 26th in the NFL in passer rating, and he hasn’t finished higher than No. 24 since 2014, the last time the Ravens advanced to the playoffs. The team is 44-45 since Flacco was named Most Valuable Player in Super Bowl XLVII, the crowning achievement of a historic postseason run that helped him secure a then-record contract.
Flacco, 33, has started all but six games for the Ravens since being named the starter as a rookie in 2008. He suffered a season-ending torn ACL and MCL in 2015 and a herniated disk in 2017 that kept him out through the preseason. But in April, the organization began to prepare for life without the face of their franchise.
With the No. 32 overall selection in the draft, a pick they traded up for, the Ravens took Jackson, a former Heisman Trophy winner at Louisville with elite playmaking ability but spotty passing accuracy. He struggled at times during the Ravens’ extended preseason, completing 50 percent of his passes and finishing with three touchdowns and one interception. But he also averaged 5.9 yards a carry and scored three times on the ground.
While the Ravens’ decision to retain quarterback Robert Griffin III on their season-opening 53-man roster raised questions about the pecking order behind Flacco, Jackson seemingly emerged as the clear-cut No. 2 over the first half of the Ravens' up-and-down season.
Normally employed in the Ravens’ oft-criticized two-quarterback offensive sets, Jackson has 28 carries for 139 yards and a touchdown this season, and the threat of his running ability on read-option plays has opened holes for the Ravens' otherwise struggling ground game. He has attempted passes in just five games this season, going a combined 7-for-12 for 87 yards and a touchdown.
He led a touchdown drive at the end of the Ravens' 36-21 loss to the Carolina Panthers in Week 8, and on Monday, Harbaugh acknowledged the Ravens were considering “every option” to get Jackson more involved. Harbaugh stopped short of saying the Ravens were considering starting Jackson, the only one of the 2018 draft’s five first-round quarterbacks to not start a game this season.
“Joe has played well, so I don’t want to get into all of that,” said Harbaugh, who faced questions about his job security after the loss to Pittsburgh. “We’re rolling right now with what we have. But, of course, at some point in time. This guy is a quarterback. We’ve said from the beginning, and anybody that wants to dispute that, come to practice like you guys do, or you watch him play. He’s improving all the time. He’s getting better as a quarterback, an NFL quarterback, all the time.”
The Ravens did not practice during their bye, and neither Flacco nor Jackson was seen in the locker room Tuesday, the team’s last media availability of the week. Harbaugh is scheduled to address reporters at his weekly news conference Monday.
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The Athletic first reported Flacco’s injury.