If Lamar Jackson were 45-year-old Tom Brady or a 38-year-old Aaron Rodgers, Wednesday might have come and gone as a product of wisdom, patience and arm maintenance. Instead, when the 25-year-old Baltimore Ravens quarterback showed up wearing a black full-length compression sleeve on his throwing arm and didn’t attempt a pass in Wednesday’s practice, it elicited the kind of response you’d expected.
Raised eyebrows, questions and some wonderment about what exactly the problem is.
“Just a normal, course-of-the-season type thing,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh told reporters. “He practiced today so, he’ll play on Sunday.”
While he apparently went through practice, Jackson told reporters he didn’t throw a pass Wednesday and he was also included on the injury report with a right elbow injury. He was also wearing a type of sleeve with elbow padding that a league source said is typically utilized by team trainers to stimulate blood flow and minimize joint swelling. The source, who saw pictures of Jackson in the sleeve, said it’s comparable to the sleeve worn by Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford — whose elbow required a minimized workload and rest starting last season and lasting through training camp.
“Guys get hit or land on their elbow [in games] and can be dealing with soreness and swelling for a few days, so you’ll see them sleeved up as a practice precaution,” the source said. “I don’t think it’s unusual unless he’s wearing it constantly and then taking a day off throwing every week. If that’s what this is, then that can be a red flag. … He’s on the first injury list after [the game on Sunday], so that’s usually something where he probably got hit and just had some swelling or tightness and they’re being careful and making sure he’s good to go [Sunday].”
Jackson, who has yet to nail down a long-term contract extension, didn’t appear concerned about having to wear the sleeve and told reporters he was prepared to throw Sunday.
“I’m going to throw Sunday — a lot Sunday,” Jackson said. “… I’m good. The [elbow] pad came with the sleeve. It wasn’t added or anything like that. I will be out there Sunday. I’ll be out there in practice [Thursday]. I’m good.”
Through two games and a 1-1 record, Jackson is off to arguably the best start of his career, completing 64% of his passes for 531 yards and six touchdowns against only one interception. He’s also ran for 136 yards and a touchdown. He’s facing a New England Patriots defense on Sunday that will be using Jackson as a measuring-stick game after holding the Miami Dolphins’ Tua Tagovailoa and the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Mitchell Trubisky to one passing touchdown each during a 1-1 start.
The versatility and skill level of Jackson represents a much bigger challenge, which was never more evident than when Patriots coach Bill Belichick affirmed that he sees the Ravens quarterback as an MVP-level player who can throw from the pocket and will eventually be paid like one.
“Without a doubt, it’s the type of the player, MVP type of candidate,” Belichick said of Jackson. “I think he’s more than answered [questions about his ability as a pocket passer]. But, we’ll see what his contract is. That will answer [questions].”