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Extended absence in preseason by Joe Flacco should give no cause for concern

Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh delivered unexpected news after quarterback Joe Flacco sat out Thursdays's preseason opener.

"He’ll go maybe next week [in the second preseason game]. Maybe he’ll go the third game," Harbaugh said. "We haven’t decided that yet."

Sitting Flacco for the first preseason game was not surprising. He's coming off season-ending knee surgery, and he typically plays only one series in the preseason opener anyway.

Keeping Flacco on the sideline for a second game is more unusual. Given that Flacco rarely plays in the preseason finale, he would only have one game to get all the rust off for the regular season.

But there should be no increased concern about Flacco being ready for the Sept. 11 game against the Buffalo Bills for these reasons:

Flacco has not missed any reps. Before training camp began, Flacco said it was going to be important for him to be smart and tell Harbaugh when he needed some rest. But he has taken every snap with the first-team offense. The fact that Flacco hasn't needed a day off -- when most of the other Ravens veterans have -- is a very good sign for Baltimore.

This has been one of Flacco's best training camps. Entering the third week of training camp, Flacco's accuracy has been up and his interceptions have been down. He doesn't look like the only staring quarterback who missed all of the offseason workouts. There's a certain comfort level with Flacco, who has the same offensive coordinator in consecutive training camps for the first time since 2011-12.

Flacco isn't thinking about the injury. It's one thing to hear Flacco say his surgically repaired left knee isn't on his mind. It's another to see him play like someone who forgets he's wearing a knee brace. Not only is Flacco moving around well in the pocket, he has taken off downfield when there are no receivers open. Of course, he's wearing a red, no-contact jersey. So, there's no fear of getting hit. But he obviously has confidence that he can run.

So, why aren't the Ravens playing Flacco in the preseason? They're deferring to Flacco, who has earned the right to weigh in this decision.

He made it clear at the start of training camp that he wants to be ready for the regular season, not the preseason. "To put [the left knee] at any further risk [and] to get hit in a simple early preseason game probably wouldn't be the smartest thing," Flacco said last month.

If the Ravens play it safe with Flacco for the first two preseason games, it's a decision that's been made easier by how Flacco has performed in training camp.

"He appears ready to go," quarterbacks coach Marty Mornhinweg said. "You have to give him an awful lot of credit. I’m sure he will talk about it one of these days, but he spent all offseason, all summer, for the most part, right here [at the training facility]. There is a lot that goes into coming back seven months, seven-and-a-half months off of an ACL [injury].”