Browns starting Flacco against the Rams; fourth QB for Cleveland in '23
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Joe Flacco isn’t exactly a rah-rah guy, but the veteran quarterback’s steady presence might be exactly what the Cleveland Browns need to stay in the playoff chase.
Flacco will start Sunday for the Browns, kicking off his 16th NFL season by becoming the team’s fourth starting quarterback this year.
“I don’t know if Joe’s ever been accused of being enthusiastic,” coach Kevin Stefanski said. “Joe’s a pro. I’ve been around pros. He’s right up there. He does his job.”
The 38-year-old Flacco signed with the Browns (7-4) two weeks ago after Deshaun Watson had season-ending shoulder surgery. Flacco is playing this week against the Los Angeles Rams because rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson remains in the concussion protocol after getting hurt in last week’s loss at Denver.
If Flacco plays well this week, he’ll likely remain Cleveland’s starter for the rest of the season.
It’s a twist for the Browns as Flacco spent 11 seasons beating them while he played for AFC North rival Baltimore. Flacco went 17-3 against Cleveland with the Ravens, and he beat the Browns last season when he threw four touchdown passes and rallied the New York Jets to a 31-30 win.
Flacco took all the reps with Cleveland’s starting offense during practice this week at UCLA, and he impressed coaches and teammates despite a long layoff.
“He looks good,” wide receiver Amari Cooper said. “He throws a very pretty ball. I don’t know if it’s intentional or what, but when he drops back and he lets it go, the whole motion is like poetry in motion.”
Flacco has passed for 42,320 yards and 232 touchdowns in 15 seasons — 11 with Baltimore, three with New York and one with Denver. After he went unsigned during the offseason, he stayed in shape while waiting for a team to call.
The Browns brought him in for a workout a few days after Watson was lost for the season with a shoulder fracture. Cleveland signed him to the practice squad, and Stefanski moved him ahead of P.J. Walker as the backup this week.
“He’s going to get the job done, but he’s going to show you that he can get it done in a controlled environment, which you love because football brings a lot of emotions,” said receiver Elijah Moore, who played two seasons alongside Flacco with the Jets.
“I feel like that’s exactly what we needed. I know we were shopping around for people, and that’s a decision that the players don’t really get, but I know that everybody’s happy.”
On Thursday, Flacco said the chance to possibly start again in the NFL was rejuvenating.
“It’s definitely exciting, the idea of it,” Flacco said. “There’s a lot of things about being at this point in my life that make it really exciting even besides just playing the game of football. There’s so many things that add to it now, having young kids and feeling their excitement about it, and when you are away, it puts things in perspective a little bit.”
The team around Flacco looks to be in decent shape as well, considering the injuries the Browns incurred against the Broncos. Defensive end Myles Garrett (shoulder), wide receiver Amari Cooper (ribs), right guard Wyatt Teller (calf) and left guard Joel Bitonio (knee) were all listed without an injury designation after missing practice early in the week.
Cornerback Denzel Ward was ruled out because of a shoulder injury. Ward leads the Browns with 10 pass deflections, and he is one of two players with two interceptions.
AP Sports Writer Tom Withers contributed to this report.
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