There is always drama surrounding Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson.
It’s the nature of the position, especially when you’re the face of the organization and an NFL Most Valuable Player candidate. When he missed practices last week because he was battling chills and fatigue, the question was will Jackson play against the Chicago Bears?
This week, the question is will Jackson be 100% Sunday night against the Cleveland Browns?
The scrutiny never stops.
“No, I don’t buy into it, to be honest with you,” Jackson said of being under the microscope. “I don’t buy into it all.”
Well, it’s not going to stop. Some of the drama is unwarranted and some Jackson has brought upon himself. There is also the added element of notoriety because he fits Baltimore’s personality of rooting for the overachiever or being the underdog.
That wasn’t the case with New York Jets quarterback Joe Namath in the late 1960s and 70s. He craved being in the spotlight wearing fur coats, doing pantyhose commercials and guaranteeing the biggest victory in NFL history. There have been other quarterbacks who have drawn national attention because they are weird and never grow up, like Green Bay’s Brett Favre and the Packers’ latest flake, Aaron Rodgers.
In contrast, Jackson is the opposite.
According to some team officials, he doesn’t read newspapers or watch ESPN. He does TV interviews, but mostly because he has to as a team representative. For the most part, Jackson is quiet, reserved, well-liked and respected by his teammates, but there is intrigue because he is so gifted and young.
Of course, he has also had the coronavirus twice.
Maybe if he had confirmed he had gotten vaccinated there wouldn’t be as much scrutiny over his recent cold-like symptoms, but that interest probably won’t end until the pandemic is over. Until then, there will be a constant drama when he misses practices.
“It happened, but I’m not worried about it, because I’ve been healthy all my life,” Jackson said earlier this week. “I’ve never had a problem being ill at all until I [came] here. So, I don’t really know what that is, but hopefully, that’s’ done with, if anything.”
Maybe. It wouldn’t have been such a big deal if he was Joe Smith, a third-string tight end from Nebraska. But he’s Lamar Jackson, the 2019 MVP, the only person more elusive than Houdini.
So that’s why there was talk about how Jackson curled up in a blanket on his flight to Chicago and about how he slept the night before the Bears game. And then there was video of Jackson walking slowly into the stadium, just like when the cameras caught him running to the locker room during the Cleveland game last year to take care of some cramp issues.
And remember how Jackson came out onto the field and delivered a go-ahead 44-yard touchdown pass to Marquise Brown and then helped set up Justin Tucker’s game-winning 55-yard field goal with two seconds remaining?
It was like someone had written a script to an old Hollywood western, and Jackson came out with guns blazing in that final showdown.
The drama never stops.
Look at Jackson’s contract situation. He doesn’t have an agent and negotiations have dragged on. There are some fans who want this resolved and his job with the Ravens secured well into the future.
But nah, that makes too much sense. Let’s call in a crew from “Entertainment Tonight” first.
Maybe we all just got used to former Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, who had two emotions: dull and dead. Now we get to see Jackson doing a flip into the end zone against the Kansas City Chiefs after watching Flacco struggle to slide his entire career. At least there were no complaints about a back injury several days later.
With Jackson, there is more concern about what he does during the offseason than him getting smacked around by some 300-pound defensive lineman on game day. In March of 2019, he posted a video of himself driving 105 mph. In May of 2020, there was Jackson in a video scrambling during a beach football game and falling over a nearby Jet Ski.
During this offseason, there was footage of Jackson taking reps at wide receiver and defensive back on a basketball court while engaged in contract talks that could pay him more than $40 million a year.
That’s living on the edge. Call it what you want, but he fits the Baltimore psyche. Jackson, a Heisman Trophy winner, fell all the way to final pick of the first round in the 2018 draft. Coming out of Louisville, there was criticism about him being more of a runner than a thrower, and that his mechanics were poor.
While Jackson has proven a lot of people wrong, media members still harp on how Jackson has shown he can come from behind and win against quality opponents. In reality, it’s time to bury that “not bad for a quarterback” theme.
It’s all part of the Baltimore intrigue, but let’s not forget that Jackson is only 24 years old. He is expected to catch colds and do really, really dumb things. He has probably lived in a box for most of his life and he is going to step outside those borders.
And when he does, there is always going to be drama because he is of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. Some of it is unnecessary, but some of it is brought upon himself.