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Joe Flacco’s leadership on full display early in preseason action

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Healthy and high energy, the veteran appears primed for a big time bounce back

NFL: Pro Hall of Fame Game-Chicago Bears at Baltimore Ravens Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

“Power formation, play action, Flacco to the fullback, Patrick Ricard, touchdown Ravens.”

The above sentence by WBAL’s Gerry Sandusky is everything Ravens fans could’ve hoped to hear in capping off the starting quarterback’s only action on Thursday night against the Los Angeles Rams. On his lone 10 play, 70 yard drive, Joe Flacco looked athletic, accurate, and most importantly, comfortable.

This was on full display as he stood tall in the pocket and also extended plays to keep things moving against the Rams’ second-string defense. He looked as sharp as ever in his return to action as QB1 for Baltimore.

However, that’s to be expected for an 11-year vet in a tune-up effort versus a team’s depth squad. What was more impressive were the intangibles on display.

The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec highlighted a specific interaction after the aforementioned play that points to a potential sea change in Flacco’s demeanor:

“Flacco celebrated with his teammates and then headed over to the spot on the bench where the wide receivers were meeting. He engaged in a conversation with wide receiver Michael Crabtree, discussing the third-down incompletion to the veteran in the end zone that was negated by a Rams’ penalty. Other Ravens receivers looked on and listened as Flacco and Crabtree talked things over. The quarterback then went to the other end of the sideline to congratulate each one of his offensive linemen.”

Logically, no one could blame the longtime starter for shutting things down and being perfectly satisfied with the successful series the offense had just enjoyed. After all, it was a meaningless game and Flacco’s action was over for the evening.

But the fact that he went the extra mile to talk things over with Crabtree after the missed end zone pass, and gave his line the necessary props is important for a guy like Joe. Why? It all ties into his somewhat complicated history with the media.

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Baltimore Ravens
Flacco continues to shrug off questions about having a different mentality this year
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

During his 10 seasons as a starter, Flacco has become the consummate punching bag, a piñata for “passion-level” watch dogs who scrutinize body language to the nth degree. His trademark expressionless sideline presence is called leadership by example when the team is winning and a lack of passion or fire when the opposite is the case.

It’s a double-edged sword, really; sometimes the criticisms are warranted while other times they can be unfair drive-bys perpetrated by hot-take talk shows with nothing better to fill their air-time with. Regardless, more of what we saw on Thursday night will help Flacco to dispel them one way or the other.

There’s another aspect of his leadership which has been called into question as well though. Ever since an heir to his proverbial throne was named, Flacco has taken heat for being more Cersei Lannister than Ned Stark.

Lamar Jackson has been promising in practices and his few preseason appearances since arriving in Baltimore, and Flacco has received criticism for not being especially jazzed up about the presence of the rookie passer. Without getting too far into media watch dog mode, I’ll just say there have been a few too many take-downs of the incumbent starter for allegedly not cozying up to the guy who will soon be replacing him in a perfect world.

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Baltimore Ravens
Flacco has been accused of not being receptive enough to the rookie
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Either way though, the idea that he’s gone completely in the other direction is pretty overblown. Jackson himself has said that Flacco has been helpful to him in practice, and the below video shows the veteran is keeping an eye on Jackson as he progresses through the preseason:

While the Ravens social media team putting this out there is obviously a savvy attempt at defusing rumors of tension between the two, Flacco spoke highly of Jackson in his postgame presser:

“It’s good to talk to him on the sideline, he comes off as a confident young kid. I think he’s doing a great job of understanding what’s going on, being able to feel what’s going on out there while he’s doing it, and then coming back and explain it, look at the pictures to see what can get better. I think he’s handling himself really well, and that’s all you can ask for right now.”

While the situation is obvious and Flacco isn’t in a hurry to hand his job over to Lamar, this sounds like the beginning of a productive relationship between two guys who have mutual respect for each other. They’ll both continue to learn from one another, and those who would still call Flacco selfish and unwilling to help the rookie out just aren’t paying close enough attention at this point.

All in the all, the arrow appears to be pointing further up than it has in a while for Flacco, and it will be interesting to see if he can keep on playing well and showcasing his personality as he has been. If he does, then the Ravens will probably be looking at a much more promising season than the last several they’ve been through. At that point, as Flacco has put it, the questions surrounding his future will answer themselves.