OWINGS MILLS, Maryland — Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson has now caught, and recovered from, COVID-19 twice. Both times, he was symptomatic and was away from the team for days.
Lamar Jackson weighing vaccination options
And yet, he is still on the fence about getting the vaccination — even knowing that the virus is no joke and that catching it as a franchise quarterback during the football season could have disastrous competitive consequences.
“I just got off the COVID list Friday,” Jackson said Monday after completing just his second practice of training camp. “I just have to talk to my team doctors and try and see how they feel about it. I’ll keep learning as much as I can about it and go from there.”
When asked in a follow-up question if he might now get the shot, Jackson replied: “We’ll see. We’ll talk to the doctors. We’ll see.”
This is newsworthy, of course. But it’s also a dynamic that should not be viewed in a vacuum.
Does this affect Lamar Jackson’s future contract?
On the same day Jackson came off the COVID-19 list — Friday [August 6] — his 2018 NFL Draft classmate Josh Allen signed one of the most lucrative contract extensions in NFL history. Allen’s six-year, $258 million contract makes him the second-highest-paid quarterback in football, behind Patrick Mahomes.
But unlike Mahomes and Jackson, Allen has never won a league MVP award.
Jackson is a thrilling talent whose ability to break contain with his legs and turn a broken play into a touchdown is what makes the Ravens a perennial Super Bowl threat. And yet, the Ravens haven’t paid him, even though they could extend him at any time.
The jury is still out
While he’s improved as a thrower, there are lingering questions about Jackson’s accuracy. Jackson will never be the league’s best pocket passer, and speed fades with age. The sustainability of his game is a real question.
But so is his off-field decision-making.
Just Google “Lamar Jackson jet ski” (there’s video of him from last summer nearly crashing into one while playing beach volleyball); “Lamar Jackson basketball court” (you’ll find footage of him doing DB drills with randos last month); and “Lamar Jackson speeding” (Jackson filmed himself doing 105 miles per hour without a seat belt).
None of these issues are super worrisome on their own. But taken together, along with Jackson’s reluctance to get the vaccine, present the picture of a player who still has some gaps in judgment. And that’s not a surprise. He’s still just 24 years old.
But contract extensions are more about projecting the future than rewarding the past. For the Ravens to go all-in on Jackson, they must be confident that he will do whatever it takes to be available and healthy.
John Harbaugh weighs in
“Nothing has changed in the sense of it will happen when it’s going to happen, when it’s best for both sides to happen,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Monday. “Both sides want it to happen. There’s really not a hurry on it.
“Lamar’s going to be our quarterback for many years to come. We want him, he wants us. We’re focused on what’s important now, which is a good practice. That’s really what we got to be thinking about. That kind of question really isn’t relevant to what we’re trying to do right now.”
Make no mistake: Jackson is highly valued within the organization and, without doubt, a likable guy. His comments Monday about a personal and potentially embarrassing situation were engaging.
Jackson, when asked by PFN his reaction when learning again he had popped positive, answered in good humor.
“What the???? Again?” Jackson said. “It was crazy. I was heartbroken. I wasn’t looking forward to that at all. Right before camp? It was like, not again. Not right now. But it’s over with.”
For now. But perhaps not for good.