While announcing that Lamar Jackson will miss his fifth straight game in Week 18, Head Coach John Harbaugh discussed the franchise quarterback's recovery from his knee injury.
Harbaugh remains "hopeful" Jackson will play when the Ravens open the playoffs, and said he was working as hard as he can to return.
"The truth is, we just really don't know," Harbaugh said. "I know everyone's working as hard as they can. Lamar's working as hard as he can, the trainers are working as hard as they can, and [I] can't wait for him to get back, obviously, just like everybody else. That's where we're at. He won't be playing in this game, and we'll be hopeful for next week. We'll just see where we're at then."
Harbaugh has been reluctant to give an exact timetable for Jackson's return because injuries are unpredictable.
"I know that maybe people – fans, and media and everybody – might get a little frustrated about, but it's just kind of the nature of it," Harbaugh said. "When we have an update, definitely, you'll have it, but injuries are so hard to predict. That's why I get up here sometimes and I'll refrain from saying how long it will be. You might think it's going to be some number of weeks, or some number of days, or whatever, but you really don't know because they [players] all respond differently.
"Then later, I feel bad because it didn't turn out to be the number that we originally thought it was going to be. So, then I try to say, 'Well, I'm really not going to talk about that,' and sometimes people think, 'Well, he's hiding something.'. It's really not. I might be hiding something sometimes, but not in this case."
Ravens Will Play to Win Sunday, But Will They Rest Some Starters?
The Ravens want to win Sunday, but they have already clinched a playoff berth and a victory would not guarantee them a home playoff game. In order to get a playoff game at M&T Bank, the Ravens would still need the Chargers to beat the Broncos and would need to win a coin flip.
That raises the possibility of the Ravens still resting some starters Sunday, hoping to enter the playoffs as healthy as possible.
Harbaugh said the Ravens would take everything into account and decide the best approach. Unlike the preseason, when the Ravens have a 90-man roster, some starters will have to play on Sunday.
"We're going to play this thing for short-term and long-term considerations," Harbaugh said. "Long-term considerations being the most important thing is being as prepared as we can for the playoffs.
"You really can't sit too many guys out. This is not the preseason; you don't have an unlimited number of guys. So, it's not as big a deal as I think it's sometimes made out to be, but our plan is to go up there and win the football game, and do the best we can to win. I'm sure the Bengals are going to be looking at it the same way and I'm sure it will be a hard-fought game."
Harbaugh Is Fine With How NFL Resolved Playoff Implications
The Ravens didn't know until Friday that they would have a chance to host a playoff game. Harbaugh said the team simply focused on facing the Bengals, knowing the decision on how the playoffs would be handled was out of their hands.
"I didn't give that too much thought; it wasn't something that as a coach we really had time to be involved with," Harbaugh said. "We were working on the game-planning and the preparation. I think that was at a league level.
"The thing I appreciate – and the way I understand it – the number one consideration was Damar Hamlin, his health and his family. That's why the game was originally postponed and then eventually cancelled. Then, after that, there's 100 considerations, in terms of logistics, competitive fairness, fans, all the partners involved in the league. All those things I'm sure were taken into account. Whatever they do is good with me personally. We're just excited to go play the game on Sunday, and we're going to try to play our best football. That's really what we're thinking about."
If a coin flip determines where the Ravens will play next week, Harbaugh wasn't sure exactly how the process would handled. However, he's been told that Director of Player Personnel George Kokinis has a knack for making the right call.
"Well, I've been told that George Kokinis – you guys know George – he's 3-0 on league coin flips, and they've been draft-related type things," Harbaugh said. "Maybe he's practicing his coin flip skills right now as we speak."