Flacco, 37, steps in at QB for Jets with Wilson sidelined
Florham Park, N.J. — There are moments — and they seem to be increasing by the year — when Joe Flacco knows his teammates are laughing at him.
Not for anything he's doing on the field. But the New York Jets quarterback is 37 years old, and that's practically ancient when you consider he's on a roster filled with guys who were still learning how to add, subtract and read when he was starting his NFL career.
“I don’t view myself as an old person,” Flacco said with a smile. "But every now and then, when these guys come up to you and say something to you, I’m like, ‘Oh, OK, you think I’m like 50 years old. I got it.’”
Still a kid at heart with the arm of a youngster, Flacco is the Jets' QB1 while New York awaits the results of Zach Wilson's arthroscopic knee surgery Tuesday in Los Angeles. Wilson is expected to miss two to four weeks with a torn meniscus and bone bruise in his right knee, but it could be more if doctors discover additional damage.
While Wilson playing in the season opener on Sept. 11 against Baltimore remains a possibility, it would seem more likely that Flacco is under center against the Ravens — his old team — and perhaps a few opponents beyond. It all depends on Wilson's knee.
Until then, Flacco is preparing just as he always has.
“I’m happy with what I’m doing and I love helping out a young guy and playing my role on this team," Flacco said. "But I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t have the desire to still be really good at what I do and didn’t still believe that I could still play this game.”
Coach Robert Saleh has raved about Flacco since the Jets re-signed him in March to be Wilson's backup. Saleh has run down the list of accomplishments, which include winning the Super Bowl and the game's MVP award to cap the 2012 season with the Ravens. He has thrown for 41,269 yards and 227 touchdowns in his 14 NFL seasons.
Flacco has been a starter and, at one time, the highest-paid quarterback in league history. He also has been a backup and mentor. Now, he needs to be a starter again, at least for the next few weeks — and possibly the start of this season.
“He’s a veteran,” Saleh said, “and I just expect him to approach it like he has his entire career.”
Flacco realizes he's part of an older generation of players — especially in his own locker room. After all, Wilson is 23. Cornerback Sauce Gardner, the Jets' top draft pick in April, is a mere 21. There are only eight players out of 90 even in their 30s, with Flacco topping the list — and newly signed left tackle Duane Brown right behind him, with his 37th birthday on Aug. 30.
“Every now and then, you think about the fact that I’m the oldest person in the room and it’s tough to wrap my head around because when you’re in the locker room and around a bunch of ... I mean, Sauce is like 20 or 21 years old,” Flacco said. “I view myself as 25, 26 at max, so it’s just one of those things you just get used to it and you develop relationships and all that other stuff just goes out of the window.”
Age becomes just a number if you can still perform. Just ask Tom Brady, who retired after last season but is back for another year with Tampa Bay at age 45.
“Tom’s different," Flacco said. “To be able to do what he has done, it’s crazy.”
But what Flacco is doing isn't too shabby, either. And while the age gap between him and the rookies continues to grow with each season, Flacco's teammates keep the father of five feeling young.
Even if it's by him being the butt of their old-man jokes.
“You get to know guys and you get to develop relationships with people and they see you different,” Flacco said. "After they interact with me for a little bit, they’re sitting at lunch and we’re chopping it up and all of a sudden in a couple of minutes they might see me completely different than they did before they sat down at the table, so it’s really neat.
“I feel like I’m like a dad that's easy to pick on and they like laughing at me because of that, so I embrace it.”