The Ravens’ death outside linebacker Jaylon Ferguson is different because he played in Baltimore.
After almost 35 years of sports journalism, you become immune to the ups and downs of professional sports, especially when something happens in other cities or other parts of the country.
But tragedy struck in Baltimore on Wednesday when the Ravens announced that Ferguson died. Baltimore police said Ferguson was found unconscious in a house on the 400 block of Ilchester Avenue in the Harwood neighborhood.
Police said there were no signs of injury or foul play, but investigators are not ruling out the possibility of an overdose before a medical examiner can determine the cause of death. It does not matter to me. Ferguson, a father of three, was only 26 years old. This is a tragedy regardless of the circumstances.
He’s too young for anyone to die.
He will never see his children graduate from high school or college, or see them get married. He won’t coach at football clinics or become grandparents.
I didn’t know Ferguson well.
In fact, in his previous three seasons with the Ravens, I only interviewed him three times. But he played for Baltimore, and it hit a nerve.
I saw him come into the league as a rookie. I saw him try to play defensively, adjusting to the outside midfielder. According to several current and former Ravens assistant coaches, Ferguson was a hardworking and likeable player who had already overcome several obstacles as a child in Zachary and Ruston, Louisiana.
By Wednesday afternoon, many of his current and former teammates had already paid tribute to Ferguson with social media posts. More than any other sport, football creates such a connection.
I once had a junior high school football coach, Richard Harman, who said that the only group that is closer than a football team is the men in the war. I believed in this for a long time, and to some extent I believe it now.
This association of lifting weights, attending meetings, training in 100-degree heat, and competing in stressful situations is unique. This is why Ferguson’s death can be so devastating to the organization.
There are a lot of heavy hearts in the Castle, and, unfortunately, there is no plan, no tic-tac-toe, how to fix them.
I’ve been in this situation before. In 2013, I was the coach of the New Town lacrosse team, and my assistant, Terry Kimball, died of cancer.
We had a game the day he died and one of the officials offered condolences to one of my players who asked me if the coach Kimball they loved had died.
I told the player I don’t know because we need to beat this game and go back to school. After that, I told the team the news, but I broke down a couple of times. The players told their parents. Some of them came in tears.
As a head coach, I only had to deal with 14 players. Ravens coach John Harbaugh has about 90 people to deal with, not counting the front office staff. He must control his emotions by giving advice and consulting with others. This is one of the most difficult positions for a head coach.
A former Ravens assistant said this season could have been Ferguson’s breakthrough year. This was to be his fourth season after being selected in the third round of the draft in 2019 and he appears to have lost 20 to 30 pounds.
Ferguson did well in minicampfinally showing the blast he lacked in previous years. Maybe he was finally going to live up to the reputation he built in college when he broke the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision record for career sacks with 45, surpassing former Ravens great Terrell Suggs’ mark of 44. Those sacks earned him the nickname “The Sack.” Daddy.”
However, it is much more than just football. Life is so many things, and definitely fragile.
When most of us first heard the news on Wednesday morning, we probably wondered why. How could this happen? Be that as it may, sadness soon set in, and many of us felt a personal tragedy.
Ferguson was so young and his death hit Baltimore.