Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson acknowledged all the offseason difficulties he and the rest of his teammates face during the national coronavirus crisis, but Jackson said he won’t even allow himself to consider the possibility that NFL games won’t be played this fall.
“The world needs football,” Jackson said on a videoconference with the media April 21 when asked about the possibility of losing the 2020 season. “I’m not going to put that in my mind.”
Jackson also said he doesn’t envision a scenario in which the NFL will host games in empty stadiums, a solution being pondered by sports leagues around the world that have been shut down by coronavirus concerns.
“I really don’t see that happening,” Jackson said.
In a broad-ranging media session — Jackson’s first since the Ravens’ upset playoff loss to the Tennessee Titans — Jackson touched on a variety of topics, including his publicized workout with mercurial wide receiver Antonio Brown, his social media exchange with President Trump, and goals for both him and the team as the Ravens navigate this most strange offseason.
Jackson, the reigning NFL Most Valuable Player, also revealed that he will be the cover image for the Madden 21 video game.
“It’s always been a dream of mine,” he said from an airbnb in Florida, adding that, “I’m not worried about a curse.” Several Madden cover subjects have suffered injuries the following season, though Jackson pointed out that Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes went from 2020 Madden cover boy to Super Bowl champion.
Observing quarantine and social distancing guidelines while in Florida, Jackson said he hasn’t been able to do his usual offseason workouts with his personal quarterbacks coach Josh Harris, nor has he been able to spend much time with his receivers. One social media posting of Jackson working with receiver Marquise Brown and his cousin, Antonio Brown, ignited speculation that the Pro Bowl receiver, a free agent again after a troubled 2019 season that also included several off-the-field legal issues, could end up with the Ravens.
“I’d be happy if [the Ravens] signed him,” Jackson said, adding, “It’s not my decision.”
With the NFL Draft set for this week, Jackson knows that the Ravens will be adding to their roster, and while he said he’d welcome any players who help the Ravens move toward a Super Bowl title, he specifically mentioned the importance of finding a replacement for retired perennial All-Pro guard Marshal Yanda.
Yanda’s retirement immediately thrust that position to the top of the Ravens’ offseason needs, along with inside linebacker, edge rusher and wide receiver.
Whenever the Ravens do convene and move toward a 2020 season, they will do so coming off a franchise-record 14-2 season during which Jackson set an NFL single-season record for rushing yardage by a quarterback (1,206) and threw for a league-high and franchise-record 36 touchdowns.
Jackson said he doesn’t anticipate carrying the ball as often as he did last year (176, another NFL record for a quarterback) given the Ravens’ running back corps led by Mark Ingram and a passing attack that should benefit from a fully healthy Marquise Brown, who played through a foot injury last year, and that could add more talent in the draft.
The Ravens’ record-setting run, which included a franchise-best 12-game winning streak to end the regular season, ended with the stunning loss to the Titans in the playoffs, and Jackson said his mindset going into this year will be driven in large part by that loss.
Unfortunately for Jackson and the Ravens, that was the same story last year. For all his remarkable success in his first two years in the league, Jackson is 0-2 in the playoffs, a fact that will hound him like a Pro Bowl pass rusher until he wins one. And that isn’t lost on him.
“I have to win me a playoff game before anything,” Jackson said. “I’m tired of that already. Once I’m tired of something, I gotta make it happen. That’s my goal right now.”
He noted that his rookie-year, first-round playoff loss to the Los Angeles Chargers fueled him that next offseason, and he expects another loss to do so again — whenever he and his teammates can get back to some sense of normal.
“I let it haunt me,” Jackson said of that first playoff loss, “but it made me a better player.”
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