The Baltimore Ravens are back in the playoffs after a one-year hiatus but the likelihood of them having star quarterback, Lamar Jackson, back under center for the primetime Wildcard bout with the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday Night Football is not looking good according to several discouraging reports.
Per sources informed of the two-time Pro Bowler’s ongoing injury situation, NFL Network Insiders Ian Rapoport and Mike Garafolo reported Wednesday, January 11, 2023, that Jackson continues to deal with a PCL injury he suffered in Week 13 and “faces an uphill battle” to play this upcoming week.
“Not looking good for Lamar Jackson,” Rapoport said on NFL Network’s Good Morning Football. “Which is a bit of a surprise if you look back. Dec. 4 was the last time he played, battling a PCL sprain. There were so many people involved who thought if Lamar is not going to play in the regular season, he will surely be ready in the playoffs. However, from my understanding this is something sources have said over the course of the past 24 hours is that Lamar Jackson faces an uphill battle to be able to get out on the field in the playoffs against the Cincinnati Bengals.
“He is working, he is trying, he is rehabbing. The knee is just not quite right. Now, this has been shrouded in some secrecy, so there’s always a chance. Anything happens with Lamar Jackson, but I would be surprised base on what I know if he practices today, which means we can see Tyler ‘Snoop’ Huntley for the Baltimore Ravens.”
Jackson was not spotted on the practice field on Wednesday during the portion that was open to the media. While his primary backup, Tyler Huntley, who sat out the season finale as a precaution as he deals with tendinitis and wrist injury was seen during that time, according to the Baltimore Beatdown and baltimoreravens.com’s Kyle P. Barber, he didn’t throw a single pass.
Both Huntley and head coach John Harbaugh said that he had a ‘good chance’ to play in Week 18 before the team decided to inactivate him before the game. If he were to return to the lineup and Jackson could not yet again, the third-year pro would be in line to make his ninth career start, the fifth of the season, and the first of his career in the postseason.
NFL Executive Believes Ravens Can ‘Make a Run’ if Jackson Returns
There are those around the league that think the team can go far in the playoffs but their chances of the team being able to upset the Bengals and play deep into January hinges upon and is pending the return of their dynamic dual-threat quarterback to the lineup.
“If Lamar Jackson plays on Sunday, the Ravens have the pieces to make a run,” an NFC personnel director told Heavy Sports’ Matt Lombardo in reference to a surprise playoff team.
Without Jackson in the lineup, an already struggling Ravens’ offense managed to be even worse in terms of scoring points with a meager average of just 12.5 points per game in their last six outings since he went down in the first quarter in Week 13. Despite showing some promising and brilliant flashes at times, they haven’t been able to reach or surpass 20 points in a single contest since Week 12 in a 28-27 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
In a press conference on Wednesday, January 11, 2023, Harbaugh told reporters that “of course” he would be comfortable with Jackson playing at less than 100 percent if it were still safe and didn’t put their franchise quarterback at further injury risk.
“As long as he’s safe and healthy and can play,” Harbaugh said. “Any player goes out there and he’s healthy and safe and is not going to do any damage to an injury. Any player plays and does what he can to the level that he can in that situation.”
On Monday, he expressed several reasons why he is confident his team has what it takes to make a deep playoff run no matter who is under center.
“This team is what gives me confidence about going on a postseason run – everything about this team,” Harbaugh said in a press conference on January 9, 2023. “This team has what it takes to win at this time of year, and that’s what matters. So, everything else kind of fades to the background – all the big-picture stuff. What comes to the foreground is doing what you have to do to win a game – win one game – in the most important time of the year and playing winning football for 60 minutes – playoff-winning football. So, that’s what we’ll be focusing on.”
If neither Huntley nor Jackson is available to play against the Bengals for a second week in a row, the team is still confident in the abilities of Brown to lead the offense in what would be his second career start in his playoff debut.
“He’s going to be ready to go if called upon, and we’re going to go out there, and we’re going to put our best foot forward, and I’m pretty excited about our chances,” Harbaugh said.
Brown gained some invaluable experience in his first taste of extended action in Week 18 and after a rough start, he played much better in the second half. The first-year pro finished with 71 more passing yards than 2022 Pro Bowl signal caller Joe Burrow of the Bengals (286-215) on just two more attempts (44-42).
Ravens Make Roquan Smith Extension Official
On Tuesday, January 10, 2023, the team and fifth-year inside linebacker Roquan Smith agreed in principle to a record-setting deal to make him the highest-paid player at his position in the entire league with an average annual salary of $20 million with $60 million in full guarantees.
The two sides formally put pen to paper ahead of Wednesday’s practice and made the contract extension official.
Smith acknowledged that there was a possibility that he could’ve earned more money had he made it to unrestricted free agency and let teams try to outbid each other to secure his services. However, he wanted to remain in Charm City for the long haul because he loves the team dynamic and knows that he’ll be able to compete for a championship every year.
“I want to be on a team that has a chance to compete year in and year out to hoist a Lombardi,” he said. “I knew this place was a place I could that year in and year out.”
The good news and additional accolades continued to roll in for Smith on Wednesday as he was announced as the ‘Team MVP’ by the local media as well as the NFLPA 2022 Players’ All-Pro First Team for the immeadate and seismic impact after getting acquired from the Chicago Bears at the midseason trade deadline.
He was the only Ravens player on the All-Pro First-Team after finishing as the team’s third-leading tackler with 86 combined including 7 for a loss in 9 games and 9 starts. Smith also recorded 2 sacks, 3 pass deflections, and a quarterback hit.