Lamar Jackson rejuvenated for Ravens’ playoff push in final five games

Lamar Jackson rejuvenated for Ravens’ playoff push in final five games originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman wasn’t sure which Lamar Jackson the team would have back last Sunday. 

The team closed practice on the day Jackson was scheduled to return, presumably to shield Jackson from media members and veil the reigning MVP quarterback’s status in Tuesday’s game. But even still, the Ravens were concerned with Jackson’s availability for the game. 

Jackson joked he watched as much film as he could against the Cowboys, but he was asleep for the majority of the time while he was away from the team with COVID-19. Apparently, it hit Jackson hard enough to cause concern about this week’s game.

“We were very interested to see how he looked when he got back,” Roman said. “We had no idea. He got hit pretty hard, so we weren’t sure how he was gonna look. First practice back, it was very encouraging. He bounced back quick, and I know a couple days before that he wasn’t really doing great. We weren’t really that sure. I thought he went out and really played a good, solid, winning performance. Really brought some life and some juice to us.”

Statistically, Jackson wasn’t his best through the air and threw for just 107 yards on 12-of-17 passing. But he ran for 94 yards, including a 37-yard touchdown on 4th and 2 that sprung the Ravens’ rushing attack to a 294-yard performance. 

Beyond the box score, Jackson looked like his elusive, free-wheeling self. 

“I did have fun coming back,” Jackson said Thursday. “I was out two weeks. I missed my guys. Most importantly, it’s win or go home for us right now. So, we’re just going out there and just putting our all out there on the line for one another. That’s just joy for me. Being away for two weeks, it felt like a whole year. It’s just a joy — joyful day and joyful time for me.”

The Ravens put 23 players on the Reserve/COVID-19 list last week during one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in pro sports. With a season on the edge of a playoff berth, the Ravens say they’re not taking much for granted anymore.

“I think for all the guys that were out, sometimes, you don’t realize how much something means to you,” coach John Harbaugh said Thursday. “And I think these guys do realize how much it means to be playing in the National Football League, but the day-to-day, you don’t realize how much it means to you until it gets taken away.”

The Ravens (7-5) have four more games the rest of the way, all of which they’ll be favored in. If they’re able to take care of business in all four, they’ll be in the playoffs for the third-straight season. Even if they win just three, that should be enough to clinch them a playoff spot. 

And with the final quarter of the season still to play, the Ravens’ star quarterback has new life in his legs.

“Lamar was ready to get back, we were ready for him to get back on the field,” left guard Bradley Bozeman said. “He did a great job coming back, staying prepared, staying ready while he was doing everything via zoom. He’s busting his butt harder than ever now.”

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