This time Lamar Jackson said he was sure.
The last time the Ravens quarterback spoke publicly, he was feeling fine after finishing Friday practice in preparation for the Chicago Bears. The illness that had kept him off the field for the past two days seemed to be on the wane.
Later that night, it returned with a vengeance, leaving Jackson sweating and shivering in his sleep. When game day arrived in Chicago, he was unable to play. He wrapped himself in a heavy coat and watched from the training room as… his backup, Tyler Huntley, led the Ravens to a 16-13 comeback victory.
Jackson, who has not revealed what his ailment was, was back to his routine on Wednesday, throwing paces at practice and offering upbeat statements to reporters.
“I’m positive. I’m sure. No relapse,” he said, laughing as he alluded to his… roller coaster health week on the way to the Bears game.
He said he has no doubts that he will be ready to start against the Cleveland Browns at M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday night. “I don’t want to talk about the disease,” he said. “I’m fine now. … I think I’m back to normal. I want to go out and just go.”
This season has taken unusual turns for Jackson, who started off playing brilliantly but missed four practice sessions with three different illnesses. He seems stunned by his health concerns, acknowledging that his battle with COVID-19 at the start of training camp may have made him more vulnerable, though he’s not sure if that’s true.
“That’s a good question; I don’t have an answer,” he said.
Jackson has tested positive for the virus twice, first during week 12 of the 2020 season and again in July.
He reiterated that for this year he rarely struggled with illness, saying, “I’m not worried about it because I’ve been healthy all my life.”
Despite missing the Bears game, Jackson ranks 13th in the NFL in passing and ninth in rush. He led the Ravens to four fourth-quarter comebacks and first place in the AFC North.
His encounter with the Browns will be his first since the… Ravens rallied for a 47-42 win in Cleveland last December. Jackson disappeared for part of the second half as he tried to overcome debilitating cramps, but came out of the tunnel just in time to finish off the Browns with a couple of scoring runs. Even by Jackson’s staggering standards, he put on quite the show for the Monday Night Football crowd.
“The cramps,” he said when asked what he remembered of that night. “My whole body cramped. [Then] scoring back and forth, both teams. It was just a competitive game, one to remember.”
He will renew his individual rivalry with Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield, who was selected 31 places ahead of him in the 2018 draft. While Jackson struggled with his immune system, Mayfield endured a long list of injuries, including a torn labrum and a fracture in his chest. non-throwing shoulder. He lashed out at Browns fans this week after completing just 15 of 29 passes and throwing two interceptions in his team’s narrow win over the scoreless Detroit Lions Sunday. He added that he was “frustrated” with his poor performance.
NBC analyst and former Pro Bowl quarterback Drew Brees said the injuries have changed Mayfield’s throwing mechanics.
“It definitely affects it,” Brees said during a conference call on Tuesday. “I saw him – the game he came back from injury, I remember I just saw it in the pregame, they had the camera pointed at him a lot, talking about him coming back and he had the shoulder harness on. And I just watch how he throws and I think, man, that’s a different throwing motion. For example, his mechanics have changed a bit based on the fact that he doesn’t have the same range of motion as what he normally would with his front, with his left side.”
The former No. 1 overall pick ranks 27th in ESPN’s QBR, a measure of overall quarterback performance, and some Browns fans have requested backup Case Keenum to step in.
“Baker Mayfield is the starting quarterback; We’ll prepare for that,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “We have a lot of respect for him and for what he can do, what he has done.”
Brees hasn’t spent as much time studying Jackson’s performance this year, but has admired the Ravens quarterback since he entered the league, in part because Brees’ eldest son, Baylen, is a fan of no. 8.
“I’ve admired his journey thus far and watched that attack build around him and his skills,” Brees said. “He’s got such unique skills and with everything they’ve been through too, early in the season with losing so many guys to injuries, especially running backs, I think it shows that attack is all about him. And you can hooking up a bunch of other pieces. As long as you have him, he can make it work.”
Jackson was hurt to see the Ravens take the field without him in Chicago, but he consoled himself by watching Huntley, his former South Florida high school rival, take the reins with success.
“I had the big old jacket wrapped around me and watched the game,” Jackson said. “And when he made that last ride, I felt like I wasn’t sick anymore.”
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