Joe Flacco empathizes with pass-rushers: 'It's a violent sport'

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco strongly empathizes with pass-rushers who now have to deal with increased rules that are designed to protect him.

"It’s a violent sport. It’s meant to be that way,” Flacco said Wednesday. "I definitely have feelings for those guys over there because not only are they penalizing people and affecting outcomes of games but they’re also taking paychecks away from people and they’re acting like it’s no big deal. But it is a big deal. That’s a lot of money for anybody. So, there’s a lot of issues with it, I think.”

Quarterback protection penalties have spiked this season. According to ESPN Stats & Information, there have been 21 roughing the passer penalties in the first two weeks of the season. Last season, there were 21 such penalties through the first four weeks.

The ramifications have been costly. DeMarcus Lawrence, Aaron Donald, Grady Jarrett and Sheldon Richardson were each fined $20,054 for roughing the passer in Week 1.

Flacco said it’s very rare that he has complained to an official about getting hit.

"I don’t have time to worry about whether they’re going to call a flag on me or not,” Flacco said. "That’s what my family is up in the stands for.”

The most controversial came last week, when Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews was called for a questionably interpreted but game-altering penalty in a 29-29 tie with the Minnesota Vikings.

"This is football, man,” Flacco said. "We all sign up to get hit. We all sign up where you might get hurt. That’s what makes this league a little bit different than any other in professional sports.”

Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs has been flagged for roughing the passer seven times in his 16-year career. But it has been eight years since he was last called for roughing the passer.

"I was told to be political,” Suggs said before shaking his head. "We have to gently lay a guy down and caress them and all of that.”

Ravens coach John Harbaugh said his players are taught to tackle the quarterback and not necessarily hit them.

"When you’re tackling a guy, you’re not going to lift a guy up and dump him on the ground,” Harbaugh said. "You’re not going to drive your body into a guy and try to create an injury. That’s the type of thing that you’re trying to get out of there with the quarterback because he’s not protected."