Lamar Jackson’s lingering PCL injury has irritated some members of the Baltimore Ravens, according to Super Bowl-winning head coach Sean Payton, but All-Pro cornerback Marlon Humphrey is not among those annoyed with the franchise quarterback.
Jackson not travelling with the team for the Wild Card Playoff game against the Cincinnati Bengals only added to the growing controversy about his status and future. Yet, Humphrey refused to blame Jackson for the 31-24 defeat on Sunday, January 15.
Instead, the cornerback who earned his third Pro Bowl berth this season defended Jackson. Humphrey confirmed the extent of Jackson’s injury, while also expressing hope the pending free agent will sign a long-term contract and stay in Baltimore for the long haul, per ESPN’s Jamison Hensley: “I don’t even know if I should say this, but he’s like limping around the facility.”
Humphrey’s assessment of Jackson’s situation has been echoed by Jackson’s former backup Robert Griffin III, along with two other Ravens stars. Yet their words go agains the verdict of others, including Payton.
Lamar Jackson’s Injury Causing a Stir
Jackson has been out since getting sacked early on during Week 13’s 10-9 win over the Denver Broncos. There had been hope Jackson would return in time for the postseason, but the 26-year-old put paid to any such optimism when he tweeted about the extent of his injury:
Going public about his injury status left the Ravens with no choice but to trust backups Tyler Huntley and Anthony Brown in the playoffs. Huntley got the nod, but costly turnovers blighted his otherwise solid performance at Paycor Stadium.
An interception by linebacker Akeem Davis-Gaither led to the Bengals’ first touchdown, while Huntley’s fourth-quarter fumble gave Cincinnati to go-ahead score. The deputy signal-caller had the ball knocked loose by Logan Wilson at the goal-line, allowing defensive end Sam Hubbard to return 98 yards for another six points:
Huntley could have used Jackson’s presence and advice to assist him for his first ever start in the playoffs. The Ravens’ next man up confirmed he wanted Jackson there, per Ravens Vault co-host Sarah Ellison:
It’s difficult to believe Jackson’s presence wouldn’t have given the Ravens a better chance in a game they should have won. The Ravens went 3-4 without Jackson, one season after an ankle injury saw the team collapse with an 0-5 finish in 2021.
That previous injury came without the media spotlight generated by the extent of his knee problem. Jackson playing in a contract year has heightened the focus and speculation about his every action.
Head coach Joh Harbaugh was forced to address the burgeoning drama ahead of his team’s most important game of the season. Harbs’ attempt to deflect attention were far from convincing, telling NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport he “didn’t pay much attention to” his quarterback’s social media activity:
Harbaugh also cited “privacy laws” as a strange way of explaining why he couldn’t reveal the true extent of Jackson’s ailment, per Jonas Shaffer of The Baltimore Banner.
While the coach was trying to back away from the controversy, former New Orleans Saints boss Payton didn’t hold back during an appearance on Fox Sports: “I’m hearing grumblings from a handful of folks there that they’re teammates that feel like his process has been slower than I expected. I just don’t like it.”
Humphrey and two of his fellow All-Pros aren’t among those who share Payton’s belief Jackson will “end up with another club.”
Multiple Ravens Back Lamar
Despite Payton’s disapproval, risking further injury was a legitimate concern for Jackson. At least according to his former backup, Robert Griffin III. Griffin endorsed Jackson’s decision to put his long-term health ahead of the Ravens’ immediate need:
RG3 knows a thing or two about serious knee injuries, since one derailed his pro career at the end of a rookie season in Washington that saw him named NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. Like Jackson, Griffin’s game depended as much, if not more, on his skills as a runner than what he did throwing the ball.
Jackson can excel in both areas, but there’s still some debate about whether he’s worth a deal on a par with the $230 million in guaranteed money the Cleveland Browns handed to Deshaun Watson.
His injury record won’t help his case in contract talks, but many of Jackson’s teammates want him to prolong his stay in Baltimore. Among them, Humphrey’s fellow All-Pros, tight end Mark Andrews and left tackle Ronnie Stanley both called for Griffin to stick around, per Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic:
Key members of the playing staff have made their feelings clear about Jackson and his future. Now it’s up to Harbaugh and Ravens’ general manager Eric DeCosta to find a quick solution to a situation that’s already threatening to turn ugly and define the team’s offseason for all the wrong reasons.