The NFL has seen many rule changes in favor of the offense since Joe Flacco entered the league in 2008. Playing 10 seasons behind multiple offensive lines and against many top-tier defenders has given him some insight as to how the game has developed over the years.
Despite being a quarterback — a position that has been protected a great deal by the NFL — Flacco believes that football is inherently a dangerous game.
“Listen – this is football, man, Flacco said to reporters on Wednesday. “We all sign up to get hit, and we all sign up [knowing] that you might get hurt. That’s what makes this league a little different than any other professional sports league.”
Players will feel the bumps and bruises over the course of an NFL season that others will not. Flacco knows this and due to the awareness of the rule changes in favor of the offense, he feels for the players on the other side of the ball.
“We’re not really putting our life on the line, but every time we do go out there, we are putting our career on the line. That’s what makes football a little bit different. I think that’s what makes it interesting to watch.
During his career, Flacco has been sacked 322 times. He has played through injuries — some occurring during the season and a back injury during the 2017 offseason — he has had his knee rolled up on and been battered and beaten, but Flacco understands that it’s all part of the game that he plays.
“It’s a violent sport; it’s meant to be that way,” said Flacco. “I definitely have feelings for those guys who are there, because not only are they penalizing people and affecting outcomes of games, but they’re also taking paychecks away from people, and they’re acting like it’s no big deal. It is a big deal. It’s a lot of money – for anybody. There are a lot of issues with it, I think.”
Flacco has seen penalties go his way — others have not. He realizes that when playing football, one cannot search for yellow flags. A play must be made, whether or not the referees will toss a flag for roughing the passer, a defenseless receiver, pass interference, etc.
“It’s very rarely – maybe when you’re looking for a call,” Flacco said. “You just don’t really think about it gametime. You’re just trying to execute the play and do all that stuff. I don’t have time to worry about whether they’re going to call a flag on me or not. That’s what my family is up in the stands for, I guess. I don’t know.”
In his last game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Flacco was sacked four times. Each one of those sacks served as a debilitating blow to the offense. Playing in a division such as the AFC North takes a quarterback through all of the emotions and bodily harm that one would expect from some of the better defenses in the league. It also takes a certain kind of player to play in all sorts of weather — the rain, the sleet, the snow and the wind that comes with playing up north.
“I think everybody who plays in this league has a certain toughness about them when they go take that field. Playing in this division for as long as I’ve had, up against the defenses that we get to go against week-in and week-out and dealing with all the different elements, I think it’s impossible to not gain an edge from that. We’ve played against hardnosed, tough teams every year, and it becomes a part of who you are a little bit.”
After taking hits during the game on Thursday night, Flacco was able to get back up and make plays. Though he ended up going 32-for-55 passing with 375 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions, the 33-year old continued to churn on. He didn’t end up with the outcome that he wanted, but his toughness and pride is something that is emblematic of many NFL quarterbacks.
“I think every quarterback takes pride in being able to stand in the pocket and deliver when you’re under siege a little bit,” said Flacco. “You’re not going to be able to make a living of it week-in and week-out. But, that’s why you have those big guys up front for. They’re doing a great job. You understand that week to week, you’re going to go against guys that are really, really good at their position, and you’re going to have to do that.”
Though he does believe in the grit that quarterbacks show on a regular basis, he doesn’t think they are anywhere close to being the most resilient player on the field. They are there to make plays when they are needed the most.
“Quarterbacks – they’re the least tough guy on the field. Flacco said. “So, when you are given your chance twice a game, you better stand in there and make the throw.”
Flacco’s durability will be tested against the Denver Broncos on Sunday when linebacker Von Miller and defensive end Bradley Chubb are chasing after him.