Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson missed his third and fourth practices of the season due to illness this week, according to the team’s official injury report, but he’s fully expected to play against the Chicago Bears this Sunday.
This is the third different week this season that Jackson has been absent from at least one practice after falling ill, though none have been COVID-related after a positive test in late July held Jackson out for the first two weeks of training camp.
He missed one practice in Week 3 and another in Week 6 with minor illnesses, but led the Ravens to victory both times. Jackson also missed two practices in Week 4 due to back soreness before returning to throw for 316 yards against the Denver Broncos.
While Jackson’s absences likely bear no relevance to his availability for Sunday’s game, they are somewhat concerning after a season- and career-worst offensive performance last Thursday against the Miami Dolphins, especially when other key starters on offense have missed practices this week as well.
Center Bradley Bozeman (illness), wide receivers Rashod Bateman (illness) and Marquise ‘Hollywood’ Brown (thigh) and offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva (rest) all missed at least one practice this week, though all four, as well as Jackson practiced today.
Ravens Need to Combat Blitzes
Bozeman and Villanueva, along with fellow veteran offensive lineman Kevin Zeitler, will be key in helping the Ravens improve their pass protection against heavy blitzes like those they faced in Miami. Starting right tackle Patrick Mekari practiced for the first time in almost a month this week, giving him an outside chance of being ready in time for Sunday’s game.
Bateman and Brown will be instrumental in using their speed and deep ball tracking ability to punish opposing defenses for aggressive gameplans. While the Ravens attempted to use a variety of screens to beat the blitz last week, they’re likely looking to take more deep shots to more effectively take advantage of one-on-one matchups for Bateman and Brown.
Tight end Nick Boyle was a full participant in practices on Wednesday and Thursday this week, indicated that he will make his long-awaited season debut following last year’s season-ending knee injury. His powerful blocking will be vital in both picking up extra blitzers and clearing the path for Jackson and Baltimore’s running backs, most likely led by Devonta Freeman with Latavius Murray still working his way back from injury.
Jackson: ‘I’m Feeling Great’
There’s been no explanation from Jackson or the Ravens regarding his repeated absences due to sickness this season, but the quarterback did address the media today.
Jackson said with a chuckle that he was feeling “way better than I was a couple days ago,” adding, “I’m feeling great.”
Jackson revealed that he was dealing with cold-like symptoms, but he will be good to go for Sunday.
He expressed his appreciation for fans who send him well-wishes when he falls ill: “Fans showing concern for their QB. I love that!”
Head coach John Harbaugh had no concerns about Jackson’s readiness for Sunday, telling media today, “He was out there practicing today and he looked good. I think he’s feeling a lot better.”