BALTIMORE — If recent injuries, regular-season disappointments and, of course, Father Time weren't enough of a hindrance to Joe Flacco, his team's selecting its likely quarterback of the future might have signaled that his time as a Baltimore Ravens fixture could be coming to a close.
Of course, Flacco doesn't see it that way.
After he suffered a season-ending torn ACL in the 10th game of the 2015 season and missed all of training camp and preseason a year ago with a back injury, many wondered whether the pounding taken in his first 10 NFL seasons had caught up to the 33-year-old former star at Audubon (N.J.) High and the University of Delaware.
Then the Ravens this year drafted former Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson of Louisville as the 32nd and final selection of Round 1. (The Eagles originally owned the pick, but traded it to the Ravens.)
As cool a customer as there is, Flacco never flinched, despite all the questions during the offseason about his job status. He said the addition of Jackson didn't change his outlook one iota.
"If I am not already motivated to play this game at a high level, then I am in trouble," he said during training camp. "It is what it is. I haven't made too much about it and will continue to be that way and go about my business like I normally do."
Ravens offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, who once held a similar position with the Eagles, says Flacco is very secure in his position.
"He is not looking over his shoulder. Trust me on that," Mornhinweg said during the preseason. "He is the man."
Mornhinweg says the major difference is that Flacco is finally healthy, something that was possibly taken for granted as he started 122 consecutive games before his 2015 injury.
"Think about what he went through, with the ACL injury two years ago then the back last year," Mornhinweg said. "Shoot, he practiced, like, three days before the first game last year. What a tough man he is both physically and mentally."
Flacco carried his stellar play from training camp to the regular season when the Ravens opened Sunday with a 47-3 rout of the Buffalo Bills at M&T Bank Stadium.
Playing in rainy weather, Flacco completed 25 of 34 passes for 236 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions and a 121.7 passer rating. Was this as good as he has felt in Week 1 in a while?
"I don't like talking about my injuries, honestly, too much," he said. "… I feel good because we won the game, and that is the most important part. I feel good because our team is out there feeling good about how we played today."
The Ravens will be using Jackson in certain packages. Sunday, he made his first appearance on the initial series. On a first and 5 from the Buffalo 15, Jackson came in at quarterback and Flacco flanked out wide. Jackson ran the ball for no gain.
In the third series, with the Ravens leading by 7-0, Flacco handed off to Jackson, who threw an incomplete pass.
Even when Jackson doesn't get the ball, he makes the defense worry about yet another option because of his speed.
"We wanted to establish him as a threat quickly, not a possible threat," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said after the game. "We wanted him to go out there and make plays and generate plays for us."
Sunday's game was so lopsided that Jackson saw plenty of action. He is a work-in-progress as a passer and likely has a long way to go before realistically thinking about unseating Flacco.
Selected in the first round (18th overall) in 2008, Flacco guided the Ravens to the Super Bowl in the 2012 season, was named the Super Bowl MVP, and threw 11 touchdowns and no interceptions in four postseason games that year. For his career, he has thrown 203 touchdown passes and 130 interceptions in the regular season and 25 TDs and 10 interceptions in the postseason. With Flacco, the Ravens are 93-62 in the regular season and 10-5 in the playoffs.
Flacco helped the Ravens earn playoff berths in six of his first seven seasons, yet Baltimore hasn't been to the playoffs since 2014. Last year, the Ravens surrendered a last-minute 49-yard touchdown pass in a 31-27 loss to visiting Cincinnati that eliminated them from the postseason hunt in the final game of the season.
The year before a 31-27 loss on Christmas to Pittsburgh eliminated Baltimore from postseason consideration in its 15th game.
"The last two years have felt like a punch in the gut," said Flacco, whose team will visit Cincinnati on Thursday.
Flacco would never acknowledge that the drafting of Jackson was an additional jab, but Ravens safety Eric Weddle isn't so sure. Like Mornhinweg, Weddle says that Flacco's health has played a major role in his apparent resurgence, but the five-time Pro Bowl safety also doesn't discount the presence of Jackson.
"Obviously, [Flacco] is healthy. It may not make sense, but he is very secure with himself more so than in the past," Weddle said after Sunday's win. "He believes in what he is and what he can do. Obviously, you draft a quarterback in the first round, it has to be motivating to you, and if not, he wouldn't have played like that."
It also helps that Baltimore has fortified what was a pedestrian receiving corps. All three wideouts the Ravens signed in free agency this year — John Brown, Michael Crabtree, and Willie Snead IV — caught TD passes against Buffalo.