Veteran Joe Flacco is ready to lead the Jets vs. Ravens while Zach Wilson heals up

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Some people were surprised when Jets coach Robert Saleh announced that Joe Flacco would start in the season opener against the Baltimore Ravens.

Flacco wasn’t one of them, as he prepped himself for the moment since Zach Wilson suffered a knee injury during the preseason.

“Mentally, I’ve been preparing like I was going to play the whole time anyway, so it’s not really that big of a deal,” Flacco said.

Not only will Flacco start against the Ravens on Sunday at MetLife Stadium, but he will also start the following two games for the Jets — at the Cleveland Browns and home against the Cincinnati Bengals.

“He’s been preparing. He’s freaking awesome, and I’m really excited for him and his opportunity,” Saleh said. “Even at 37, I know that it’s in the back of his head, he’s getting the chance to play Baltimore and all these different things and even at 37, he’s got to keep the main thing, the main thing, and just do his best and trust his best is good enough and I think we are all excited for Joe and his opportunity and excited for Sunday.”

Wilson suffered a meniscus tear and bone bruise on a noncontact play during the first quarter of the Jets’ preseason opener against the Philadelphia Eagles on Aug. 12. Four days after the injury, Wilson underwent a procedure described as a “trim” to the meniscus.

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Sources said Wilson would only be out two to four weeks, but the team never publicly announced a timetable. On Monday, Saleh said Wilson could potentially start the season opener, but he used some gamesmanship tactics to try and throw the Ravens off.

Sunday will mark Flacco’s sixth start since coming to the Jets two seasons ago. In 2020, he started four games after then starting quarterback Sam Darnold was recovering from a shoulder injury. Then Flacco started one game against the Dolphins last season after Wilson suffered a sprained PCL in his right knee.

I’m having a great time here,” Flacco said. “I think anytime you’re 15 years in the league, you’re going to have what feels like a young group around you, but I’m having a lot of fun with them and it does help that I’ve been here for a few years, and I have that rapport with a bunch of guys on the team and you can definitely tell the difference between the locker room then and now.

“I’ll continue to say it, I think we have some momentum behind us, but we still haven’t done it on Sunday on a consistent basis, so I think until we do that, you always need to prove it to yourself and that locker room. We’re in a good spot, but we need to go out there and prove it to ourselves and get off to a good start.”

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Sunday will also mark the first time Flacco will face the team who drafted him with the No. 18 pick in the 2008 NFL Draft. Flacco played with the Ravens for 11 seasons, which included winning Super Bowl XLVII and being named the game’s MVP.

However, in 2018, the Ravens traded back into the first round to draft Lamar Jackson, who was pegged to be the future of the franchise. Following a 4-5 start that season, Ravens coach John Harbaugh benched Flacco and started Jackson and the team finished 10-6 and won the AFC North.

That following offseason, the Ravens traded Flacco to the Denver Broncos before finding his way to the Jets in 2020. Although he has downplayed facing his former team, his former coach understands the type of player Flacco is and what he did for the city of Baltimore.

“Joe was our guy for many years,” Harbaugh said. “He won 10 playoff games in the first five years.”

“He kind of transformed us in so many ways in terms of the type of team we were. We were throwing the ball around a little bit and having a lot of success with that. That’s kind of immeasurable.”

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