The clouds didn’t part to reveal the celestial choir, but it’s back – Lamar Jackson in the flesh, wearing the #8 jersey and hitting passes from all angles on the Ravens’ driving range.
After months of talking about He didn’t sign a contract extension. and about he did not attend voluntary trainingJackson returned on Tuesday to his usual spot at the center of a team built around his unique talents.
He started the first session of the mandatory mini-camp by spinning the soccer ball on his fingers, passing it through his legs like a point guard, and then shooting at the blue, red and yellow targets in the end zone. He started 11-on-11 practice with a touchdown pass to his new No. 1 receiver, Rashod Bateman, and his connection through the center to All-Pro tight end Mark Andrews was as fruitful as ever.
Veteran safety Tony Jefferson was the franchise’s quarterback’s archenemy, catching a wayward pass meant for tight end Josh Oliver and coming in front of Bateman for a second interception. But overall, Jackson completed 17 of his 26 passes in 11-on-11 and all 10 of his attempts in 7-on-7 drills. The offense was more precise than during the OTA.
“He looked great,” Andrews said. “I think he has a lot of confidence in himself and the more he plays here, with the guys, the better and better he will get. He was in the crowd, he commanded the crowd, correctly understanding the guys. He threw a lot of great balls right off the head of a defender.”
Ravens coach John Harbaugh agreed: “He looked good and he loved it. Physically, he was in very good shape. I thought his hand looked very good; You can see that he threw a lot. … It was great to have him there. It lifted everyone’s spirits a little.”
Harbaugh didn’t feel the need to sit down with Jackson for a lengthy conversation when the quarterback arrived. “Back to business,” he said. “We are driving now, we are merging, we are rolling. Let’s go to work.”
Most Ravens players haven’t taken to the field with a healthy Jackson since the second quarter of the team’s loss in Week 14 in Cleveland.
But the franchise quarterback has sparked endless rounds of speculation ever since he hobbled along that December day, first for his seeming indifference to renewal talks, and then for his social media backlash. to Trade Receiver No. 1 Marquise “Hollywood” Brown and most recently with his decision to skip three weeks of voluntary OTAs (training sessions he attended in previous years).
He periodically expressed annoyance, again via social media, when pundits tried to analyze his thinkingbut did not explain his point of view on the main issues. At age 25, he is due to play his $23 million fifth-year option this season. Does he think he is in a deadlock on the contract, as some media have described it? Or is he “so obsessed with winning the Super Bowl” that a new contract isn’t a priority for him? Suggested by Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti. in March?
Jackson didn’t speak. He filled the void by posting videos of his workouts with quarterback personal trainer Adam Dedo and private trainers.
Harbaugh said he thought Jackson worked hard, but left it to the quarterback to explain why he didn’t join the team for the OTA.
That answer will have to wait until Thursday, when Jackson will meet with reporters from Baltimore for the first time since January.
But his mere arrival at the team’s facility sparked a buzz on Monday, with news breaking that he had taken over physical leadership. ESPN.com most of the day and a short video clip of him saying he’s ready for the season, which has over 1,000 retweets.
It was a preview of the speculative uncertainty that could engulf the Ravens this season and for several years to come if Jackson doesn’t sign an extension. Every step he takes will be analyzed whether there is news to report or not. If he does not answer questions about his status, those questions will go to Harbaugh and his teammates.
“You’re blocking it,” Andrews said of the constant buzz around his quarterback. “We’ve all been with the media for a long, long time, and there will be naysayers, but you have to be able to block things like that. We don’t look outside too much.”
Cornerback Marlon Humphrey said he thought about how hard it would be to walk in Jackson’s shoes while living in an eternal fish tank.
“Maybe it’s not that much fun to be famous,” he said. “It’s just a different life when everything you do is viewed in a positive or negative light, whether it’s [commentators] Shannon Sharp or Skip [Bayless] or this guy says. I know it would be annoying if I was wearing these boots, but I think he does a great job with it.”
Humphrey said there was no rift between Jackson and his teammates as the contract sage played in the background. “I think what really matters is the communication between the guys and the learning,” he said. “Sometimes it sucks to be on social media and see headline after headline when you know what’s going on but you can’t reply to everyone. But I think as long as the team knows where he is and the players know where he is – we communicate with him – I think that kind of speaks for itself.”
When Jackson wasn’t around, the Ravens talked about doing their best with the players on hand, but there was no denying the power of his presence.
“Lamar is what drives our team,” said Andrews. “He’s QB1 and the energy around him is uplifting for everyone.”