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Joe Flacco takes first-team reps in practice, could start at QB for Cleveland Browns

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Joe Flacco took the first reps in practice for the Cleveland Browns on Wednesday, and it could happen again for their game against the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday.

Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said Flacco was the backup quarterback this week, which would put the Super Bowl 47 MVP in line to start if rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson does not clear concussion protocol.

“No reason to make any decisions just yet,” Stefanski said. “We’ll see how it goes.”

Flacco signed with the Browns (7-4) on Nov. 20 after starter Deshaun Watson was ruled out for the season because of a right shoulder injury, joining Thompson-Robinson and P.J. Walker at the position.

Thompson-Robinson was injured in a 29-12 loss to the Denver Broncos on Sunday, putting Flacco in line to play for the first time since starting for the New York Jets in the 2022 season finale. Flacco was 18 of 33 passing for 149 yards in the Jets' 11-6 loss to the Miami Dolphins.

With the Browns spending the week in Los Angeles, including practicing at UCLA, Stefanski believes the format is conducive to preparing the 38-year-old Flacco in case he has to play.

“The nice part is we’re all under one roof, so it’s easy to meet extra on an off day if the guys are in the building and they want to swing by so that’s the nice part,” Stefanski said. “We’re all together.”

This is Flacco’s fourth NFL team, and Stefanski believes that previous experience is helping with the adjustment.

“Joe, as you guys know, has been in a bunch of different systems, been in a bunch of different buildings, so he knows how it works,” Stefanski said. “He knows how different operations have different nuance, if you will, so he’s getting up to speed with what we do. He’s done a nice job.”

There might be more adjustments for Stefanski, offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt and the Browns, who built a system for mobile passers in Watson, Thompson-Robinson and Walker.

Flacco, who has thrown for 42,320 yards and 232 touchdowns with 147 interceptions in 183 games for Baltimore, Denver and the Jets, is not exactly known for his elusiveness.

“I’m sure we’ll have a few more wrinkles in there,” left guard Joel Bitonio said.

Thompson-Robinson’s status isn’t the only question mark going into the game against the Rams (5-6).

Defensive end Myles Garrett did not practice because of a shoulder injury, one of several players held out.

Garrett left Denver with his arm in a sling, but Stefanski and teammates expressed optimism he would be able to play. Garrett is tied for third in the NFL with 13 sacks.

“He’s Superman,” cornerback Greg Newsome II said. “We’re never too worried about Myles. He’ll find a way.“

Others who did not participate included wide receiver Amari Cooper (ribs), running back Kareem Hunt (groin), right guard Wyatt Teller (calf) and cornerback Denzel Ward (shoulder).

In spite of those absences, the Browns are currently in a playoff spot and are determined to hold it.

“Besides the COVID year, this has been one of the more up and down injury years we’ve had,” Bitonio said. “It matters, but it doesn’t really matter who’s out there. You got to execute and find a way to win these games.”

NOTES: Basketball Hall of Famer Jerry West spoke to the Browns prior to practice. The meeting came about because Kevin Stefanski’s father, Ed, knows West from his time as an NBA executive.

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AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/NFL

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