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OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) — Just when the Baltimore Ravens appeared poised for a return to normalcy, Joe Flacco missed practice Wednesday with an unspecified illness.
The durable quarterback is expected to play Sunday against the Cleveland Browns, but his absence was unusual and completely out of character.
Flacco hasn't missed a start since launching his career during the first week of his rookie season in 2008. He has played in 98 straight games.
It was also the first time in recent memory he missed a practice.
"It was weird," defensive tackle Haloti Ngata said. "(Terrell Suggs) and I were thinking, we've never been in a practice without Joe Flacco being out there. Whatever's going on, hopefully all the best for him."
Coach John Harbaugh, who recently adopted a steadfast stance against talking about injuries, refused to give any insight into Flacco's absence.
Asked what happened to Flacco, Harbaugh said, "I don't know. I haven't talked to him. This is my answer for the year. You're going to keep asking, I'm going to give you the same answer. There will be an injury report later, though."
The injury report showed Flacco did not participate in practice because of "illness."
A team spokesman said the quarterback could return as soon as Thursday.
Coming off a week in which the Ravens released suspended running back Ray Rice, the team has dealt with one distraction after another. But the players have maintained their focus.
"Especially last week, playing in a short week against getting that win," Ngata said.
Playing three days after Rice was cut, Baltimore beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 26-6 on Thursday night.
Flacco went 21 for 29 for 166 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions against the Steelers. Harbaugh has never coached a game without Flacco as his quarterback; together they are 72-39, including playoffs. Each has a Super Bowl ring.
Backup Tyrod Taylor ran the first-team offense Wednesday.
Offensive tackle Eugene Monroe (sore knee) also missed practice but insisted he would be well enough to play Sunday.
Monroe waved off Flacco's absence as a part of life in the NFL.
"We have guys who step up," he said. "Things happen to guys all the time."
Now that Rice has appealed his indefinite suspension to the NFL, his first priority is getting relief from the league. The Ravens, meanwhile, are trying to turn their focus toward football — even while their quarterback is at home will an illness.
"Obviously this team has proven, no matter what, the guys who are on the field are ready to go," Monroe said. "That doesn't change."
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