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Quick Hits: Joe Flacco Respects Paycor, But Jeff Driskel To Make Battle Of Ohio History; It's A Small World For Bengals Sack Ace Hendrickson, Driskel; Ja'Marr Limited, Tee DNP

QB Jake Browning warms up before kickoff of the Bengals-Chiefs game on Sunday, December 31, 2023 in Week 17 of the NFL season at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri.
QB Jake Browning warms up before kickoff of the Bengals-Chiefs game on Sunday, December 31, 2023 in Week 17 of the NFL season at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri.

It turns out the Bengals won't get a chance Sunday (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's Local 12) to continue to make Browns quarterback Joe Flacco miserable in Paycor Stadium.

But when Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski announced old friend Jeff Driskel as his starter, it marks the first time in the 54-year history of "The Battle of Ohio," that a quarterback has started a Bengals-Browns game for both teams.

In 2018, when Driskel started the last five games in place of the injured Andy Dalton, the Bengals lost in Cleveland, 26-18, even though he threw for two touchdowns and had a career-high 123.4 passer rating.

Flacco had a terrible time on the road against the Bengals in the 10 games he started here for the Ravens. He won only three of them while throwing 15 interceptions against eight touchdowns for a 64.1 career Paycor rating.

And Flacco knows it. As he told ESPN Cleveland's Tony Grossi on Wednesday.

"I hate going to Cincinnati. They've always played us tough. Listen, I think my first year we beat up on them and then after that, I mean they got good and they got good quick," Flacco told Grossi. "You've got to give credit to those guys. They've had really good football teams and they've beat us a couple of crazy ways, too. They just flat out beat me and the teams I was on. They've beaten us on fourth downs, on Hail Marys.

"I think every year we'd look at that and we knew that they probably had our number a little bit and were doing our best to overcome it. But they're a good football team and they have been for a really long time now."

It will be recalled that Driskel hung on the roster in Bengals head coach Zac Taylor's first year of 2019, but didn't play in a game before moving to Denver in 2020. Driskel, a draft pick of the Boston Red Sox and a highly touted high school baseball player in Florida, is an excellent athlete who went to Taylor that '19 training camp and volunteered to play some wide receiver and special teams.

He signed last week with Cleveland, where he's reunited with offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt, his quarterbacks coach in Cincinnati.

"Jeff (is) a really smart guy, a really great athlete," Taylor said before Wednesday's practice. "(He) had a lot of success in college as a quarterback and played for a lot of teams in this league, got some starting experience. He's played a lot of football. Very smart.

"He was with Alex Van Pelt, so that makes sense. There is some familiarity there. I don't know if he's been with any other coaches on their staff, but Jeff's had a really good career in this league. Created a lot of value for himself by playing a lot of different positions over time. Good opportunity for him."

IT'S A SMALL WORLD, AFTER ALL: Driskel, 30, is no stranger to the man of the hour, Bengals right end Trey Hendrickson. Hendrickson, locked for the NFL sack lead with Pittsburgh's T.J. Watt at 17, had a roommate at Florida Atlantic named Jason Driskel, Jeff's bother. Hendrickson knows his athleticism makes him a tough guy to reach.

"Jeff Driskel is a hell of a talent," Hendrickson said after Wednesday's practice. "Hagerty High School (on the doorstep of Orlando's Walt Disney World), an incredible player. Amazing guy. He's highly respected. He's not a guy who is going to come in here and roll over."

SLANTS AND SCREENS: Taylor says wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase (shoulder) is probably ahead of wide receiver Tee Higgins (hamstring) and that's the way it worked Wednesday. Chase went limited and Higgins was out. All signs are it's going to work like last week for Chase and he's going to play as long as there are no setbacks….

Taylor mixed it up. For the first time this year he took them into the IEL Indoor Facility on a Wednesday when the weather was fine outside. But don't get it twisted.

The man wants to win to go into the offseason 9-8. Even if some of the fan buzz would rather have the loss for a higher draft pick.

"We do our best to isolate ourselves to where we know what's important. We know how hard we work. I know how much I enjoy time with this staff and this team. We owe it ourselves," Taylor said. "And we certainly owe it to our fans who supported us through thick and thin and been there every step of the way. That is obviously representing our franchise the right way. Making something that our fans are proud of is important, but also just as important is all the work we've put in together ending on the right note with a win. That matters a lot to us." …

Quarterback Jake Browning, proud Washington alum, got in a nice local shot at Wednesday's news conference in the wake of the Huskies' semifinal win over Texas led by quarterback Michael Penix Jr.

"He's fun to watch. They're really good. They're fun to watch on offense," Browning said. "I mean, I know they're no Ohio State, but they're good. I'm excited for them. It's pretty cool for the university. "

And Browning, a football guy all the way, is watching.

"I was asleep at halftime. I do not sleep very well after games, so that (next) night is kind of when I catch up. So I recorded it and watched it again," Browning said. "They looked good.

"I think part of me refuses to ever be some bitter alum that talks about 'it's not the same as when I was there.' So whoever the current quarterback is for Washington, they're the greatest of all time. And the current team is the greatest of all time. And I think that's kind of how you've got to operate. Don't be a bitter alum." …

Browning says when a guy like Chase announced after Sunday's game that he's going to try and play, he thinks that says something about how classy they're taking a game that matters not and where the Browns are sitting regulars.

"I think these are the kind of games, too, where you remember," Browning said. "I'm going to remember that (center) Ted Karras showed up today and was dialed (in) and super intense, just like this game meant everything in the world. I don't remember all the good and bad plays Ted has, but I'll remember how he acted when we're out of it.

"I think you want to be remembered well in the locker room. Because I think people remember, more so than how you played, if you played well or didn't play well, they remember what was your level of intensity and were you a pro?"

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