Saturday, January 28, 2023
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Ravens can’t rush return of Lamar Jackson for season’s final stretch

Daily Discussions

Lamar Jackson dealing with a December leg injury for a second straight year is an unsettling development for the Ravens, who have to be feeling a sense of deja vu.

Unlike last season when Baltimore approached each remaining game — at least publicly anyway — as though Jackson might return from the bone bruise to his right ankle that ultimately ended his campaign, head coach John Harbaugh said Monday that the star quarterback is “week to week” and acknowledged he would be “less likely” to play at Pittsburgh this coming Sunday. What happens after that is less certain as Jackson is reportedly dealing with a sprained PCL in his left knee, the kind of injury that can linger despite typically not requiring surgery. 

harbaughonlamar
— John Harbaugh on Lamar Jackson’s left knee injury

Harbaugh said after Sunday’s win over Denver that Jackson didn’t suffer “a season-ending type” of knee injury, but such a description carries plenty of ambiguity when the regular season is down to just five games. That the Ravens signed veteran Brett Hundley to their practice squad to give them a third healthy quarterback behind Tyler Huntley and rookie practice-squad member Anthony Brown all but guarantees an expectation that Jackson will miss some time with Huntley set to start in his place.

“Both guys play a similar game. We run the same basic offense with both players, so it’s not really going to change anything in terms of preparation I don’t think,” said Harbaugh about Huntley filling in for Jackson. “He’s a player that has a lot of dynamics to his game. He can throw, he can run, he operates really well. He’s not as experienced, obviously, but he is experienced. He’s been out there.” 

In the short term, a Week 14 game in which the Ravens would have been a road favorite now looks like much more of a coin flip with the improving Steelers having won three of four since their bye week. The same holds true for the Dec. 17 contest in Cleveland if Jackson were to miss a second straight game. Fortunately, the Ravens stand at 8-4 and would remain in good shape if they can win at least one of these next two AFC North road games, especially with Cincinnati still needing to play games at Tampa Bay and New England as well as a home clash with AFC-leading Buffalo before hosting Baltimore in the Jan. 8 regular-season finale. 

Of course, everything depends on Jackson getting healthy. A stronger defense and a healthier roster than a year ago should be able to hold down the fort and avoid the kind of late-season collapse we witnessed a year ago when the Ravens went from the top spot in the AFC to out of the playoffs entirely six weeks later. Still, any designs of a meaningful postseason run hinge on Jackson being right physically to try to spark a Ravens offense that hasn’t been at its best in weeks.

But this is when we have to recognize the ramifications of any injury to Jackson’s legs and what that means for every aspect of an offense anchored to his special mobility at the quarterback position. Outsiders often view injuries as little more than time spent in a sort of virtual penalty box with a player returning like nothing happened after a given period of time, but recovery is more gradual and complicated than that, something that’s been evident with several Baltimore players returning from major injuries this season. Being healthy enough to play is not always the same as being healthy enough to thrive in games. 

No quarterback wants to be dealing with a knee injury, of course, but the prospect of a more traditional pocket passer returning at less than 100% is much different than Jackson returning to play at less than full strength when his greatest gift is the ability to elude virtually anyone on a football field. Given the shortage of pass-catching playmakers on this roster and the post-bye struggles of the called run game, trying to expedite Jackson’s return by simply having him play more from the pocket — where he was injured anyway — and run less on a shaky knee probably isn’t in anyone’s best interests. At the same time, the clock is ticking on the 2022 regular season with Baltimore first needing to secure a playoff spot — preferably by winning the division — and then hoping to get on a roll to try to do something meaningful in January. 

That’s not even considering Jackson’s unresolved contract status and how that could — or at least probably should — factor into the equation from his perspective. 

So, what does this all mean for the Ravens? 

For now, Huntley will take the reins, maligned offensive coordinator Greg Roman will try to get this running game cooking again, and the Baltimore defense will need to continue leading the way. Left tackle Ronnie Stanley, safety Marcus Williams, and running back J.K. Dobbins are all practicing and could return as early as this Sunday. Meanwhile, the training staff and Jackson will be working around the clock to get his knee back to pre-injury form. 

The waiting is the hardest part, but Baltimore really doesn’t have a choice. It’s not as simple as slapping a knee brace on your quarterback and hoping for the best when opponents already like to blitz Jackson as it is. The problems that have plagued this offense in recent weeks aren’t magically going away — with or without the 25-year-old star on the field. 

Even if it takes a little longer than anticipated, Jackson returning to the field as close to 100% as humanly possible is the Ravens’ only shot at doing anything special next month. But remembering how the end of last year ultimately played out, Jackson and the Ravens merely getting that opportunity would be a welcome development. 

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Right Now in Baltimore

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After 26 faithful purple seasons, the Ravens have bullied me out of my seats and denied my media access

This is my story. This is the truth. And it must be told. In its entirety because it's so outrageous as to be almost unbelievable. Covering the Ravens is all I’ve ever done professionally since the team arrived in Baltimore in 1996, and this is how I feed my family and pay my bills as a small local business and AM 1570 radio operator and entrepreneur.

#ColumnNes Regarding Lamar Jackson, the lack of maturity is a bigger issue than an ugly tweet

If Lamar Jackson regrets the statement to the fellow in Pennsylvania, he should’ve offered an apology to him. If he regrets the world seeing his ugly words, Jackson has a platform with a million followers and could’ve offered an apology. If it was truly “out of character,” then show your character and admit a mistake and move on.

Why did Chad Steele take my press credentials after 26 years of covering the Baltimore Ravens?

This is my story in my own words. Listen and learn about how the NFL treats the local media and avoids the tough questions and intimidates local media who have traveled and reported on Baltimore football since before Art Modell brought the Ravens here in 1995. What happened is wrong and here's why...

After 26 faithful purple seasons, the Ravens have bullied me out of my seats and denied my media access

This is my story. This is the truth. And it must be told. In its entirety because it's so outrageous as to be almost unbelievable. Covering the Ravens is all I’ve ever done professionally since the team arrived in Baltimore in 1996, and this is how I feed my family and pay my bills as a small local business and AM 1570 radio operator and entrepreneur.

#ColumnNes Regarding Lamar Jackson, the lack of maturity is a bigger issue than an ugly tweet

If Lamar Jackson regrets the statement to the fellow in Pennsylvania, he should’ve offered an apology to him. If he regrets the world seeing his ugly words, Jackson has a platform with a million followers and could’ve offered an apology. If it was truly “out of character,” then show your character and admit a mistake and move on.

Why did Chad Steele take my press credentials after 26 years of covering the Baltimore Ravens?

This is my story in my own words. Listen and learn about how the NFL treats the local media and avoids the tough questions and intimidates local media who have traveled and reported on Baltimore football since before Art Modell brought the Ravens here in 1995. What happened is wrong and here's why...
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@NestorAparicio

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The WNST Sports Report

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