Browns new signing Flacco eager to show he ‘can still play’

QB starting off on practice squad

FILE - Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett (95) attempts to tackle New York Jets quarterback Joe Flacco (19) during an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 18, 2022, in Cleveland. A week ago, Joe Flacco was home in New Jersey enjoying semi-retirement, watching NFL games on Sundays and occasionally throwing a small football in the front yard to his four boys. Then the Browns called. (AP Photo/Kirk Irwin, File)

BEREA — Less than a week ago, Joe Flacco was home in southern New Jersey enjoying semi-retirement, watching NFL games on TV and occasionally slinging a small football around in the front yard with his four boys.

Then the Browns called.

So, the 38-year-old hopped in his car and drove seven hours to Cleveland for his first NFL workout.

“Next thing you know,” Flacco said. “I’m here.”

In yet another twist to an odd season in Cleveland, Flacco, who spent much of his career tormenting the Browns while playing for AFC North rival Baltimore, is now on their practice squad and perhaps weeks — if not days — from becoming the team’s new starting quarterback.

Wearing a freshly issued gray Browns hoodie on Wednesday before practice, Flacco looked around the large room at the orange helmets hanging in locker stalls and soaked in his new football home.

He’s seen enough in his career not to be shocked.

“This is my 16th year in the locker room, you’ve seen a million things,” he said. “So to be super surprised by something, you probably don’t have your head in the right spot. You shouldn’t be surprised by anything at this point.”

Flacco’s arrival gives the Browns (7-3) an insurance policy going forward now that they’re starting rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson after Deshaun Watson was lost for the season with a fractured right shoulder. Watson had surgery on Tuesday in Los Angeles.

Thompson-Robinson, who led the Browns to a 13-10 win over Pittsburgh last week in his second career start, will be out there again this week at Denver, and it appears the team is willing to let him hold on to the job as long as he can.

But if he stumbles, Flacco — who has thrown for 42,320 yards and 232 touchdowns and has been a Super Bowl MVP — can take over.

And despite not being on a team all season, Flacco believes he can still play. He stayed in shape while waiting to see if there was any interest.

“I do feel like I have stuff left in the tank,” he said. “So I owe it to myself to continue to push forward and try to play the game that I love until I really don’t feel like I can do it anymore.”

Browns coach Kevin Stefanski wouldn’t commit to his backup QB this week against the Broncos (5-5). But there’s a chance it will be Flacco, who would have to be elevated to the active roster.

Along with having him available to replace Thompson-Robinson, the Browns are counting on Flacco to help mentor the young QB.

And Thompson-Robinson is embracing the chance to work with a quarterback he grew up watching — even one who could take his job.

“Joe coming in here is more of a blessing than anything,” Thompson-Robinson said. “I’m asking him a bunch of questions. We were chopping it up a ton this morning. He’s in the early meetings with us and me and (backup) P.J. (Walker). It’s great, man.

“He’s fit in so well, I’ve only known him for just about a day with him being here. So I love Joe. It’s been awesome.”

For the time being, Flacco said his primary focus is on gelling with a Cleveland team he has been impressed with from afar.

The Browns are off to one of their best starts in two decades despite a rash of injuries and starting three different quarterbacks.

Obstacles have only bonded them.

“They seem like a very close group,” he said. “These guys have obviously really put it together on defense. They’ve run the ball consistently all year, even with losing out on the best back in the league with (Nick) Chubb. So it’s been impressive to watch them kind of just continue to fight.”

Flacco knows what it takes to win. After all, he played 11 seasons with the Ravens, who like these Browns were led by a tenacious defense that always gave them a chance to win.

This has all happened quickly and somewhat unexpectedly for Flacco, who wasn’t sure if he had played his last game when walked off the field following the season finale with the New York Jets in 2022.

He’s now in Cleveland, of all places, after going 18-3 against the Browns.

It’s a big change for him and his kids, who are all into football. It’s especially different for fourth grader Daniel, who was born 90 minutes before his dad played against the Browns 10 years ago and already has switched loyalty.

“His Christmas list has like 50 Browns things on it almost instantly,” Flacco said.

NOTES: Cornerback Denzel Ward (shoulder) was one of the most notable starters to miss practice. He worked on the side with safeties Grant Delpit (thigh) and Juan Thornhill (calf) and linebacker Anthony Walker Jr. (hamstring). Stefanski said Walker, who got hurt Sunday, isn’t a candidate for injured reserve.


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