NEW YORK – Joe Flacco has hoisted the Lombardi Trophy and been the Super Bowl MVP.
He has been the highest-paid quarterback in the NFL and one of the faces of a franchise.
Now with the New York Jets, Flacco is merely a 35-year-old backup coming off an injury and tasked with helping Sam Darnold achieve the kind of success he has enjoyed in his pro career.
“I’m fully embracing it,” Flacco said Thursday on a video call. “I mean, it’s where I am right now, and I’m glad to be on a team playing football in some capacity.”
That's the reality right now for Flacco, who signed a one-year deal worth $1.5 million last week that includes $3 million more in possible incentives. It also comes with quite a bit of uncertainty for Flacco.
He's on a new team in a new system, still recovering from surgery on a herniated disk in his neck and might not ever take a snap in a game this season. That, of course, would be good news for Darnold and the Jets. For Flacco, though, he envisions himself back under center as a starter.
Maybe not this year. But in years to come.
“Oh, for sure,” Flacco said. "We’re talking about all these things and that is my role, to help the team out. But, I obviously still believe that I’m a starting quarterback. And, you never know what three years down the line is going to look like. So I still have that confidence and I still have the want-to to do that.
“But, at this moment, that’s not my role. My role is to help the team get better and to help a young quarterback see things as clearly as possible and helping along his journey to being a longtime NFL quarterback.”
Flacco is trying to get up to speed on coach Adam Gase’s offense by participating this week in virtual meetings. He won’t put a timetable on when he’ll be able to potentially play, but there’s a chance it might not come until sometime in September.
He’s leaving that to the doctors, though. Flacco is just happy to have another chance to continue his playing career.
“Sometimes it’s not your decision, but not playing was never never one of my choices,” Flacco said. “It was a tough decision for me to get surgery or not to get surgery in one respect because I just didn’t have a ton of symptoms telling me, ‘Hey, you need to get surgery.’
"But when it became evident that I probably wasn’t going to play football again unless I did get something done and a team that signed me could feel comfortable that, when I was ready to go out on the field, I was going to stay healthy, at least in terms of this (neck) area, it became very clear that this is what I had to do."
Flacco spent his first 11 NFL seasons in Baltimore, where current Jets general manager Joe Douglas was a scout in 2008 and pushed for the Ravens to draft him. They did, with the 18th overall pick out of Delaware. In his fifth season, Flacco helped lead Baltimore to a Super Bowl victory and was rewarded by becoming the highest-paid quarterback in NFL history at the time with a six-year contract worth $120.6 million.
Injuries have limited Flacco to 17 games over the past two seasons. Baltimore moved on and traded him to Denver last winter, clearing the way for Lamar Jackson to take over as the Ravens' new face of the franchise. Flacco started the first eight games for the Broncos, but injured his neck in Week 8 and missed the rest of the season.
“I know what it’s like to not feel like being part of a team because you really can’t have your hand in things,” said Flacco, who was waived by Denver in March with a failed physical designation. “I think in the role I’m in now, you can definitely have a good, positive effect on the team."
There had been some questions about Flacco's willingness to mentor young players, highlighted by his comments last year that he didn't think developing players — rookie Drew Lock, in particular — was part of his job.
In both Baltimore and Denver, though, Flacco was still the starter with young QBs behind him. In New York, he goes in knowing his primary role is as an experienced backup to Darnold, who has missed three games in each of his first two NFL seasons.
The two actually spoke on the phone for a few minutes before Flacco's call with reporters.
“Listen, I don’t think there are any backups in this league that don’t have aspirations to be a starting quarterback," Flacco said. "It’s just part of the business. It’s part of being on a team and knowing your role. And, roles can change here and there. You can be on different teams from year to year. I obviously know that at this point.
"But right now at this point in time, I know what my role is and I’m glad to do so.”
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