Joe Flacco, Philip Rivers define durability

Joe Flacco and Philip Rivers have some of the longest streaks of games started for QBs in the league. AP Images

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Joe Flacco is known for being one of the calmest quarterbacks in the NFL, and Philip Rivers has earned the reputation for being among the most fiery.

Flacco rarely shows any emotion on the sideline or in the huddle, whether the Baltimore Ravens are trailing by a touchdown with two minutes to go or winning by four touchdowns. Rivers enjoys trash talking with anyone who’ll listen, screaming at defenders, fans and even opposing quarterbacks.

The common ground for Flacco and Rivers -- who face each other Sunday -- is how they define durability at their position as well as toughness, depending on whom you ask.

Flacco and Rivers have never missed a game since being named starting quarterbacks, putting together two of the three longest current streaks in the NFL. Rivers has started in 139 straight games, and Flacco has done the same in 107 in a row. Only Eli Manning has a longer streak at 162 consecutive starts.

Rivers and Flacco have brought stability to their franchises, and they've garnered respect for their courage to play through pain and injury.

"It’s not the fact that he’s not missed a game; it’s not necessarily that that impresses you," Flacco said of his admiration for Rivers. "It’s the fact that he has been hurt in certain instances and has played through it. I think that’s what football is all about -- that’s part of it. And it’s definitely cool to see that and see those guys that are still out there that are willing to do that stuff.”

In the AFC Championship Game in January 2008, Rivers played against the New England Patriots with a partially torn anterior cruciate ligament. Many consider it one of the gutsiest performances ever because he put his team over his injured right knee and career.

That's why there was little concern about Rivers' availability this month despite playing with what tight end Antonio Gates described as a "very severe rib injury."

"Growing up around the game, my dad being a coach, I do take pride in having a little bit of the toughness element that you do all you can to be out there every week," Rivers said.

Like Rivers, Flacco had to play hurt in the Ravens' playoff run in January 2010. He dealt with a painful bruise on his right hip and quadriceps that forced him to stand throughout the team's flights for road games.

Then, last season, Flacco played the final two games with a mild MCL sprain as the Ravens were fighting for a playoff berth.

“I think it says a lot about him. He’s tough," wide receiver Torrey Smith said. "He’s taken a beating certain games, and he’ll get right back up and doesn’t complain. That’s not just this year, that’s been each and every year since I’ve been here. So, he’s a tough guy."

With his start Sunday, Flacco will move past the Buffalo Bills' Joe Ferguson for No. 7 on the all-time list of consecutive starts by a quarterback. Rivers' streak ranks No. 4 in league history.

Ask Flacco about his toughness and he responds by essentially rolling his eyes.

"As a quarterback, are you really a tough guy?" Flacco said with a smile. "You don’t have to do anything that necessarily [is tough]. I’m not out there tackling guys and sticking my head in there."

When asked about how he doesn't see himself as a tough guy, Flacco said, “I don’t say I don’t view myself as one. I just said I can’t say that. You can’t say that you’re a quarterback and you’re tough. You’re a quarterback, you’re not tough. I mean, you’re a quarterback. I play quarterback for a reason. I probably wasn’t tough enough to play those other positions, and that’s just the bottom line. So, you have to go out there, and if there is a time here or there where you can at least be proud of what you did, you have to make sure you do that.”

What Flacco can't deny is how he's provided stability to what had been one of the most unstable quarterback situations in the NFL.

In the Ravens' first 12 years of existence, the team went through 15 different starting quarterbacks, from Vinny Testaverde to Troy Smith. That's an average of one quarterback change every 13 games.

Now, Flacco is closing in on his seventh straight season of starting every game.

"Durability is every bit as important as ability, availability," coach John Harbaugh said. "You can be the most talented guy in the world, but if you’re not there to do the job it really doesn’t matter. So, that’s one of his great traits.”