Bennett Jackson has waited five years for the moment he’ll likely have Sunday in Seattle, but he’s still playing it cool.
Since being a sixth-round draft pick of the New York Giants in 2014, Jackson has still not played in a regular-season game.
Re-signed Tuesday to Baltimore’s 53-man roster, Jackson is stepping in for injured safety DeShon Elliott, who went down Sunday with a season-ending knee injury.
“He’ll be playing on Sunday, I’m sure, quite a bit,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said.
When Jackson came out of a Monday meeting with the New York Jets and saw a bunch of missed calls from his agent, he knew something was up. When he heard it was the Ravens, he was overjoyed, but also a bit torn.
Jackson felt like he was also about to get called up from the Jets’ practice squad to the 53-man roster. So Jackson had a conversation with Jets General Manager Joe Douglass, a former Raven, about it. In the end, Jackson felt more like a Raven than a Jet.
Even though Jackson was one of the Ravens’ last cuts at the end of the preseason, he remained in a group text message with Baltimore’s other defensive backs. They had a rule. Even if they changed teams, they had to stay in the chat.
“A brotherhood is a brotherhood,” Jackson said. “On a new team, you’re still getting to know all the guys. I know everybody here. I know what everybody can do and how everybody plays. I know the system. That helps me play better.”
Jackson spent much of the past two years with the Ravens. He stood out in offseason practices, but was placed on injured reserve, then re-signed to the practice squad last season. This summer, he shined again but fell victim to the “numbers game” in the secondary.
But now that the Ravens’ secondary has been stretched thin by injuries, Jackson finally has his opportunity. It’s been a long time coming.
After coming back from microfracture surgery in his rookie year, Jackson was in line to become a starter in the Giants’ defense in Year 2. A torn ACL in the second preseason game ended that. He was released the following summer.
Jackson spent the next two years out of football entirely, just continuing to train and hoping to get another shot. The Ravens gave him that when they signed him to a reserve/future contract on Jan. 3, 2018.
“I’ve had a lot of unfortunate situations,” Jackson said. “I could sit back and say, ‘What if this and that.’ But I just deal with what I can deal with.”
Now, finally, he’ll get his shot to play in a real game, but he’s controlling his emotions.
“I’ve been ready to play for years. That’s really what I’ve been grinding on. I’m not somebody that’s going to get all flustered or nervous because it’s a live game,” Jackson said.
“I’m a believer in hard work and consistency. I told myself when I was out of the league going on my second year, ‘Commit all your time and energy to training and doing the right thing and see how it plays out. If it doesn’t play out, at least you won’t have any regrets.’”
Lamar Jackson Is Better Prepared for Seattle’s Crowd Noise
Seattle’s CenturyLink Field is home to the “12th Man” and perhaps the noisiest home environment in the NFL. As Harbaugh said, it’s a contending factor for any offense and challenge for any quarterback.
Being in a raucous atmosphere is nothing new for Lamar Jackson. Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium was touted the same way just a month ago, and a year before that.
As the years and weeks have gone by, the Ravens have seen a quarterback who is better equipped to handle such a road test. Harbaugh said he’s noticed great improvement in Jackson’s handling of snap counts and operation of the offense since last year.
“He’s just way, way more advanced. We do so much more now,” Harbaugh said. “Our motions are more complex. Our cadence is more complex, both verbal and silent. We’re under [center]. We’re in the gun. We’re pistol. We’re empty. We do a lot of different things, and he’s really done a good job handling all of it.”
Harbaugh said the volume will be cranked up at Ravens practice this week, and joked that staff members should “put your earplugs in” this week. Jackson said coaches have been warning him how loud it will be, but in typical fashion, he doesn’t seem to be sweating it.
“I just have to do a good job of executing, calling out the plays and letting everyone hear me,” Jackson said.
Jackson’s Body Feels Good After Career Rushing Day
Here’s a note for all the worriers out there. After a record-setting dual-threat performance, Jackson says his body feels just fine.
Jackson ran a season-high 19 times Sunday against Cincinnati en route to 152 rushing yards. It was the third-most rushing attempts he’s had in a single game in his young career.
Harbaugh said Jackson took a couple more hits than he would have liked, but for the most part, Jackson did a good job of getting out of bounds and avoiding major contact. On Wednesday, Jackson said he’s no worse for the wear.
“I feel pretty good. I ran a lot more last year,” Jackson said. “I didn’t really take hits that much last year, and I haven’t been taking many hits this year. Just my rushing [attempts] increased this week. … My body’s good, 100 percent.”
Brandon Carr Is an Option to Play Safety
With the addition of Marcus Peters, the Ravens will have a surplus of talent at cornerback once Jimmy Smith (knee) returns.
How will Peters, Marlon Humphrey, Smith and Brandon Carr all find snaps? One option, especially considering the Ravens’ injury situation, could be to use Carr at safety.
“Absolutely, we sure can [move him around],” Harbaugh said. “He’s played all the corner spots, and he’s actually played safety a little bit here and there in the regular season. So, he’s definitely an option to play some reps at safety, for sure.”
Carr said he has played some safety over his 12 NFL seasons, and has become particularly more versatile since coming to Baltimore in 2017.
“Whatever position they put me in, it’s kind of like a Swiss-Army knife,” Carr said. “My thing is I want to win football games. I don’t have any pride issues. Wherever duty calls, I’ll be ready for it.”