This time, Lamar Jackson said he was sure.
The last time the Ravens quarterback spoke publicly, he felt good after he ended Friday’s practice in preparation for the Chicago Bears. The illness that had kept him off the field for the past two days was about to backfire.
It returned with a vengeance later that night, leaving Jackson sweating and shivering in his sleep. When game day kicked off in Chicago, he was not in shape to play. He wrapped himself in a heavy coat and watched from the training room as his backup, Tyler Huntley propelled the Ravens to a 16–13 comeback victory.
Jackson, who did not disclose his illness, returned to his routine on Wednesday, throwing passes at practice and delivering upbeat announcements to reporters.
“I’m optimistic. I’m sure. No relapse,” he said with a laugh, as he pointed to his roller coaster Health Week going to a Bears game.
He said he has no doubt that he will be ready to start against the Cleveland Browns at M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday night. “I don’t want to talk about the disease,” he said. “I’m fine now. … I feel like I’m completely back to normal. I just want to get out of there.”
This season has taken unusual turns for Jackson, who started off brilliantly but missed four practices with three separate cases of illness. He seems terrified of his health difficulties and has admitted that his battle with COVID-19 at the start of training camp may have made him more vulnerable, although he does not know if this is true.
“It’s a good question; I don’t have an answer,” he said.
Jackson has tested positive for the virus twice, first during Week 12 of the 2020 season and again in July.
He reiterated that he had rarely battled the disease before this year, adding, “I’m not worried about it because I’ve been healthy all my life.”
Despite missing the Bears game, Jackson ranks 13th in the NFL in passing and ninth in running. He has led the Ravens to four fourth-quarter comebacks and a first in AFC North.
His meeting with the Browns would be his first since the Ravens rallied to a 47-42 victory in Cleveland last December. Jackson disappeared for the second half as he tried to overcome the debilitating cramp, but exited the tunnel to eliminate Brown with a pair of scoring drives. Despite Jackson’s dazzling standards, he did quite a show for “Monday Night Football” audiences.
“Convulsions,” he said, when asked what he remembered from that evening. “My whole body went awry. [Then] Both teams scored back and forth. It was just a competitive sport, which should be remembered.”
He would renew his personal rivalry with Brown’s quarterback Baker Mayfield, who was selected 31 places ahead of him in the 2018 draft. While Jackson has struggled with his immune system, Mayfield has played through a long list of injuries, including a torn labrum and a fracture to his non-throwing shoulder. He lashed out at Brown’s fans this week after completing just 15 of 29 passes and throwing two interceptions at the Detroit Lions in his team’s win on Sunday. He said he was “disappointed” with his poor performance.
NBC analyst and former Pro Bowl quarterback Drew Brees said injuries have changed Mayfield’s throwing mechanics.
“It totally affects it,” Brees said on a conference call Tuesday. “I saw him – the game he came back after injury, I remember just looking at the pregame, he had the camera, talking about his coming back and he had a shoulder harness. And I Just watching him throw and I’m like, man, it’s a different throwing motion. Like, his mechanics are changed a little bit based on the fact that he doesn’t have the same range of motion that he normally does. Usually with his front side, does it with his left side. ”
The former No. 1 overall pick ranks 27th in ESPN’s QBR, a measure of all-around quarterback performance, and some Browns fans have called for backup Case Keenum to step in.
“Baker Mayfield’s starting quarterback; that’s what we’ll be preparing for,” said Ravens coach John Harbaugh. “We have a lot of respect for him and what he’s capable of, what he’s done.”
Breeze hasn’t spent as much time studying Jackson’s performance this year, but has admired the Ravens quarterback since entering the league, as Breeze’s eldest son, Belen, is a No.
“I have admired his journey so far, and that offense is being built around him and his skill set,” Breeze said. “He has such a unique skill set, and with everything they’ve been through, getting hurt at the start of the season with a lot of people, especially running behind the back, I think it shows.” That crime revolves around him. And you can plug in a lot of other pieces. As long as you have that, he can make it work.”
Jackson saw the Ravens take the field without him in Chicago, but he successfully saw his former high school rival, Huntley, take the reins in South Florida.
“I had big old jackets around me to watch the game,” Jackson said. “And then when he made that last drive, I felt like I wasn’t sick anymore.”
Browns @ Ravens
Sunday, 8:20 p.m.
TV: Ch. 11, 4 radio: 97.9 FM, 1090 AM
Line: Ravens 3