By Nick Shook
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Ravens camp will begin without the team’s quarterback.
Joe Flacco will miss the first week of Baltimore’s camp and is preparing to miss three to six weeks with a disc issue in his back, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport and NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported, per sources informed of the situation.
Flacco becomes the latest casualty in an offseason that has seen plenty of personnel losses — cornerback Tavon Young, tight end Dennis Pitta, who has since been released, and tight end Darren Waller, who was lost to a season-long suspension — with this being the second in as many days. Running back Kenneth Dixon‘s season ended before it began on Tuesday when he was placed on injured reserve. A day later, the man handing him the ball has been sidelined.
The bright side, though, is that the team is not concerned about Flacco’s availability once the regular season arrives, Rapoport reported. The six week maximum timeframe, as it would stand now, has Flacco returning to the field for preparation before Baltimore’s Week 1 contest against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Back injuries can be trickier and more delicate than most. One hit in the wrong area or at the wrong angle can send weeks of progress in the opposite direction. It makes sense, then, that Baltimore is exiling the quarterback to the trainer’s room early, instead of pushing him at the start of a long camp.
Ryan Mallett is the next man up at quarterback for Baltimore and is expected to get the first-team reps for most of training camp. Mallett was in the running for the starting job in Houston two seasons ago before he quickly fell out of favor with coach Bill O’Brien, and ended up with Baltimore after getting cut by the Texans. Mallett still possesses a big arm and said he learned from his immature mistakes in Houston, but has seen very little action since. Even more, Mallett is attempting to replace a quarterback who finished seventh in the league in passing yards (4,317) in 2016.
Mallett will have the benefit of a receiving corps that includes Mike Wallace, Breshad Perriman and new, reliable addition Jeremy Maclin. Conversely, Flacco won’t get the much-needed camp reps to get the timing down with Maclin, which will have to be figured out during the regular season, unless he returns before the six weeks are through.
Behind the former Arkansas Razorback is West Texas A&M product Dustin Vaughan, a 26-year-old who has spent time with the Dallas Cowboys and on the practice squads of the Buffalo Bills and division-rival Pittsburgh Steelers. With Flacco relegated to holding a clipboard and spending plenty of time in treatment, Baltimore might also explore bringing in another camp arm rather quickly, as camp begins Thursday.