The Baltimore Ravens held their rookie minicamp over the weekend, and their most-talked about rookie, quarterback Lamar Jackson, was impressive – coach John Harbaugh noted Jackson’s accuracy, and the Heisman Trophy winner said he’s ready to play at NFL speed, even as he crams to learn the team’s playbook.
But one person who hasn’t had anything to say about Jackson – or to Jackson – is Baltimore veteran Joe Flacco. Flacco has declined media requests since the Ravens selected Jackson No. 32 overall, and when Jackson was asked directly whether he’s spoken to Flacco, he said no.
The question is, however, how much are they supposed to talk?
Jackson is the future, but Flacco is the present
On some level, it makes Flacco look petty that he hasn’t reached out to Jackson to welcome him to the team and offer at least an insincere “let me know if I can help.”
On another level, however, NFL coaches and players tell us all the time: this league is a business. Flacco’s business is being the Ravens’ starting quarterback, a job he’s held for a decade, leading the franchise to a Super Bowl title after the 2012 season. And it’s Jackson’s business to get acclimated to the team’s offensive system as quickly as possible, spending hours combing the playbook, watching film and picking the brains of quarterbacks coach James Urban and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg.
The reality is clear to pretty much everyone: Flacco, now 33, will enter training camp as the starter, but he hasn’t exactly been a superstar of late; in 16 starts last year, Flacco had just 18 touchdowns against 13 interceptions, and averaged just 5.7 yards per attempt, worst in the league among full-time starting quarterbacks.
Is it Flacco’s responsibility to help Jackson take his job?
Jackson may become the starter at some point this year, particularly if Flacco gets hurt, or it could happen in 2019 or 2020 – but regardless of when it happens (and it seems clear it will happen someday), is it Flacco’s responsibility to get the kid ready to take his job from him?
Yes, Josh McCown has said he’s eager to help Sam Darnold, the New York Jets’ first-round draft pick, in any way he can. Johnny Manziel recently said that in 2015, when McCown became his teammate with the Cleveland Browns, the elder QB offered to tutor Manziel on the ins and outs of being an NFL quarterback, but McCown seems to be the exception rather than the rule.
Look at how Ben Roethlisberger has publicly reacted to the Pittsburgh Steelers drafting Mason Rudolph, and recall the stories of how Brett Favre reacted when the Packers drafted Aaron Rodgers – there are only 32 NFL starting quarterback jobs on the planet, and the majority of guys aren’t just going to hand them over to someone else.
As long as the veteran isn’t a flat-out horrible teammate, it’s part of the business.
Jackson handled his first days well
To this point, it doesn’t sound like Jackson has spoken to the Ravens’ other veteran quarterback, Robert Griffin III, signed last month, either.
He was brief but gracious when asked what he’d like to talk to Flacco and Griffin about – “How they see things on the field, what made them learn the system even faster. Stuff like that,” Jackson said – but on the field for his first workout as a member of the Ravens, Jackson did well, even as he’s adjusting to a completely different style than he played at Louisville.
“In college, we weren’t really under center like that in a certain situation,” Jackson said, via the Baltimore Sun. “But now, I’m under it constantly. I’ve got to work on that a lot more.”
To that end, Jackson did spend as much time as possible talking to Mornhinweg, Harbaugh or Urban when the team was on the field.
“He’s picked it up very quickly,” Harbaugh said. “He’s very smart. He studies. Very sharp, has a nice presence on the field. I think we all feel like he handled himself very well out there.”
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