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New Colts backup QB Flacco puts love of football, competition first

Mar. 22—INDIANAPOLIS — There were some anxious moments last year as the NFL regular season rolled on and Joe Flacco's phone didn't ring.

But the veteran quarterback always was optimistic he'd get another shot. In fact, he's yet to even considered an alternative career.

Flacco officially signed with the Indianapolis Colts on Friday as the primary backup to second-year quarterback Anthony Richardson.

He's the reigning NFL Comeback Player of the Year after completing 60.3% of his passes for 1,616 yards with 13 touchdowns and eight interceptions in five games to help the Cleveland Browns make the playoffs for the first time since 2020.

That might have proved to outsiders the 39-year-old still can play. But Flacco has never needed extra motivation.

"When you have something that you love to do and you enjoy putting in the work and all that, I don't know too many people that would give that up to try and go do something else or figure out what else that may be," Flacco said at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center. "I have no idea what else that would be. One day, I'll figure that out, but I'm not really ready to go figure out what else that may be that I love to do, especially when I'm going to be given an opportunity to do what I love to do.

"Having five kids at home also kind of pushes me in the direction of coming back here and doing those things."

The last line was delivered with a wry smile, but those parenting instincts could serve Flacco well in his new job.

Flacco has made just 31 starts over the past six seasons, during which he's played for four different franchises and spent time with a fifth.

He was asked to help tutor young passers Zach Wilson with the New York Jets and Jalen Hurts with the Philadelphia Eagles before getting the call late last season to help stabilize the position for the Browns when it became clear Deshaun Watson's injury was season ending.

With Indianapolis, he'll be an additional set of eyes and ears for Richardson as the 21-year-old returns from a shoulder injury that cost him all but four games in his rookie season.

"I think we all see what kind of athlete he is and what kind of arm he has and all those types of things," Flacco said. "... For me being here, it's teaching him how to simplify, play fast and use those tools as opposed to trying to process certain things that you don't really need to worry about and you go out there and you're not able to use your skillset the way you want to.

"You kind of slow yourself down a little bit. I think we see the athlete he is, the arm he has and the talent that he has. So as long as he can utilize those skills and play in a fast and efficient manner, then I think the sky is the limit."

Flacco was a starter from the first game of his rookie season in 2008 until he lost the job with the Baltimore Ravens to rookie Lamar Jackson after a 4-5 start in 2018.

There was an ill-fated eight-game stint as a starter with the Denver Broncos a year later, and he's been seen as a backup ever since.

But Flacco won a Super Bowl as Baltimore's starter in 2012, and — like Gardner Minshew last year — he's coming in with the knowledge he'll likely be supporting Richardson but a mindset to compete for the top of the depth chart.

"You always want to go out there and every single practice is super important to go out there and show what you have," Flacco said. "My biggest thing when I come to new teams — or even when new guys come and you're on the same team — is you want to prove to the locker room that you can play because that's how you become part of the team.

"Everybody sees, 'Oh, man, this guy can play. This guy can help us win if he needs to do that.' You're competing with yourself every single day to be the best that you can. I think that naturally just kind of rubs off on people. You learn how to work, and you become the best you can."