Ah, the generational divide. Always good for some laughs, especially in an NFL training facility.
"I don't view myself as an old person," Jets QB Joe Flacco, a mere 37 years of age, said after Sunday's training camp practice. "But every now and then, when these guys come up and say something to you, 'OK, you think I'm 50 years old. I got it.' "
But just like many situations in which the young dudes trash-talking the dad dude, Flacco, who's moved into the starting role while Zach Wilson rehabs his knee for the next month, just eats it up, like in the players' dining room.
"I'm the old guy you can pick on, he really doesn't care, says some crazy stuff sometimes that these guys probably never heard before. A lot of that is that generational thing.
"That's why it's so cool, to be in the locker room, in that environment. It really does keep you young."
Of course, quarterbacking in the NFL is a little different than chewing the fat with the kids in the business office. Tom Brady notwithstanding, 37 is the outer edge for most NFL signal-callers, many of whom have already hung up the pads and become broadcasters or coaches or moved into a team's executive suite.
But head coach Robert Saleh confirmed the expected on Sunday, that Flacco will be the starting QB for the Jets' preseason home games vs. Atlanta and the Giants, plus all the practices in between, including three joint practices with those teams combined.
And Flacco admitted he's "thought about it a tiny bit" that he could get the Sept. 11 opening day start against the Ravens, his team for his first 11 seasons in the league. And he's all in.
"I'm happy with my role. I love being here, being completely focused on whatever I'm doing right now," he said. "After practice, I want to be able to say I had the best day that I've ever had. Right now that's what I'm focused on. I'm happy with what I'm doing, helping out a young guy. I wouldn't be doing this if I didn't have the desire to be good at what I do and didn't believe I could play this game."
Saleh has no doubts the old guy can still engineer an offense and deliver a pigskin.
"Joe's a pro. He's been there, he's done that. He's been a Super Bowl MVP, a world champion. He's gotten the big contracts. He checks about all the boxes you can check," the coach said. "I think he's going to be fine, especially for the remainder of the preseason. We'll see everything else with Zach's knee, but we have all the faith in the world in Joe."
This will be the third phase of Flacco's Jets tenure as a starter after signing with the team as a veteran free agent in May 2020. There were no preseason games that year due to COVID, but Flacco played in five games that regular season for the injured Sam Darnold, four them as a starter and all losses, although he had a fair 80.6 passer rating on six touchdown passes to three interceptions.
See the Green & White on the practice field in full pads during week four at training camp.
Flacco left the Jets in 2021 as an unrestricted free agent for Philadelphia, the other pro team close to his South Jersey hometown, starting the Eagles' last two preseason games, including the 31-31 tie with the Jets. He didn't play in any of the Eagles' first seven games, and when Wilson went down with his first knee injury last October, general manager Joe Douglas sent a conditional pick that turned into a sixth-round choice in this year's draft to reacquire Flacco.
He then played in two games, starting and throwing for 291 yards and two TDs in the home loss to Miami, before Wilson returned to action.
That's just Flacco's recent history, but as fans know, he was Baltimore's longtime starter and in 2012 he started and won all four Ravens playoff games, including Super Bowl XLVII, 34-31, over San Francisco. And as Flacco said when asked about his illustrious past Sunday, he knew these questions were coming.
"I've been in a bunch of games where guys have played their past teams. Usually the emotions are definitely crazy. Guys try to act like they're so cool during the week," Flacco said. "I've probably thought about it a tiny bit. It's so far away. Who knows what's going to happen?"
But until then, this war horse is ready to laugh along with the zingers, then take the field and help guide the Jets offense toward the regular season. And if Flacco has to take the QB reins for the season opener, Saleh didn't skip a beat.
"He's a pro. He'll find a way to get it done."