Aaron Rodgers didn’t play in Thursday night’s preseason game because of a sore back, but he did seek out Lamar Jackson to shake his hand afterward.
Rodgers called Jackson “young fella” while Jackson called Rodgers “GOAT” (greatest of all-time).
Here’s the whole interaction:
“I love watching you play, man,” Rodgers said. “That was pretty spectacular.”
Of course, the “that” was Jackson’s dazzling 18-yard (nullified) touchdown run, in which he juked one defender, then hurdled another on his way into the end zone.
While Rodgers is a fan, he did have a little advice for Jackson though.
“Slide a little bit,” Rodgers said.
Jackson smiled and replied with, “I got you, baby!” as Robert Griffin III, a quarterback who knows the perils of not sliding, looked on and laughed.
Here’s the thing. Jackson has a unique talent as a runner. Should he be cognizant of protecting himself? Yes. Should he, or the Ravens, take away part of what makes him special? No.
Jackson and Head Coach John Harbaugh are on the same page. They’re not going to operate out of fear of injury.
“What are you going to do? He’s going to play football,” Harbaugh said when asked about Jackson running in a preseason game.
“We’re not trying to run him. We’re not running those plays. He’s in the pocket, and he’s staying in the pocket a lot. It’s not like he’s trying to run, but sometimes … What are you going to do? You can’t hold him back forever. He looked good on the play. He looked good on a lot of plays.”
There will constantly be people who believe Jackson’s style will make him too injury prone. Rodgers is hardly alone in being mystified by Jackson’s talent, yet leery of the potential big shots it opens him up to.
But Rodgers also knows firsthand that injuries don’t only happen when a quarterback runs.
In 2013, he suffered a fractured clavicle when he was sacked by the Bears linebacker Shea McClellin. It happened while Rodgers tried to extend a play by rolling to his right – a play in which Jackson may have taken off running.
In 2017, Rodgers suffered a fractured right collarbone on a similar play when Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr slammed him to the turf after Rodgers made a throw on the run.
Injuries happen. They can happen inside the pocket, just outside the pocket or down the field when the quarterback runs. The Ravens are going to let Jackson play his game, and the second-year quarterback is aware that he should try to avoid hits when he can.
“When I start running, [I think] ‘Score a touchdown. Play it safe,’” Jackson said. “If I don’t have it, just try to get down, safe, injury-free.”