Asked how painful it was to miss the Ravens' final four games as the team scratched and clawed for a playoff spot, Lamar Jackson seemed to squirm at the mere thought.
"I tell you all how much I love football every time I talk to you all," Jackson said. "You all know I was sick. That's not anything I want to do, man. I don't see myself doing that ever again though."
Jackson had never missed a start due to injury in his first three years in the league. But an ankle injury suffered on Dec. 12 in Cleveland took longer than expected to heal.
Jackson didn't suffer a high-ankle sprain, but he confirmed that it was a bone bruise, which proved just as difficult to come back from. The Ravens kept holding out hope, but the Ravens star still isn't healthy nearly a month later.
"You've got to talk to the doctors about that. I don't really know much about how long bone bruises last. They just told me it would be day-to-day. Hopefully, it will speed up."
Jackson returned to the practice field once before the Ravens' Week 17 game against the Los Angeles Rams, but he had a pronounced limp. He didn't take the field again.
"I wanted to play, but they shut me down because they said I had that limp," Jackson said. "They didn't want me to go out there and hurt myself more, so that's just what it was. I wanted to play, and I just couldn't."
Looking on from the sideline, Jackson said "my team never blinked." Backup Tyler Huntley helped put the Ravens in position to beat the Packers, Rams and Steelers during the six-game losing streak, but Baltimore fell just short each time.
"Our team was just straight fighters, and it says a lot about our guys – what we have here and moving forward," Jackson said. "Hopefully, this offseason, we're going to get right and get where we're supposed to be, and we have our guys come back, and we're going to have the season we're supposed to have."
The biggest offseason question for Jackson will be his contact extension. He'll be entering the fifth year of his rookie deal in 2022.
"No, we haven't talked about it yet, but I've got to worry about getting back right, right now, and getting ready for this offseason," Jackson said.