Avoiding defenders is one of Lamar Jackson's greatest strengths, and he plans to be even more adept at avoiding the coronavirus.
Jackson was pleased to see all the precautions being taken at the Under Armour Performance Center to keep players healthy during the 2020 season. It will also be important for players to have self-discipline when away from the facility, and Jackson says that won't a problem for him.
At one point during Wednesday's video conference with reporters at the start of training camp, Jackson smiled and held up his mask and a container of hand sanitizer. He plans to keep his social circle tight and his activities safe.
"I don't really deal with no one, outside of my guys here," Jackson said. "I feel like I've done a pretty good job so far. The tests and everything, all the tests came back negative. I didn't have any corona, not one tick in me. I think I've done a great job quarantining and I'm going to keep it that way. I'm the new bubble boy."
With the COVID-19 pandemic far from under control, health will become an even greater factor in determining every team's success. As the reigning MVP and centerpiece of the Ravens offense, Jackson's availability is paramount to Baltimore's Super Bowl chances. A positive COVID-19 test that sidelines Jackson could be especially costly.
Based on what he has seen, Jackson believes the Ravens have a good chance to keep their players ready to perform, and he's hopeful the 2020 season will start and finish as planned.
"I feel here, what we have going on in this building, we're doing a pretty good job," Jackson said. "We've got our tickers on, making sure we're all staying six feet apart. We've got our hand sanitizer, we've got our masks on throughout the building. I can't speak for everyone else, but I hope we finish the season."
Will Running Backs Carry More Running Load?
A question being asked frequently is: Will Jackson run less frequently than last year?
Jackson set the NFL single season rushing record (1,206 yards) in 2019 and had 176 carries, far more than Josh Allen of the Buffalo Bills (109), who ranked second in rushing attempts among quarterbacks. Jackson had the 26th-most carries in the league.
The Ravens may want to decrease Jackson's running load this year, especially after drafting J.K. Dobbins in the second round. Dobbins adds to a deep running back room that includes Mark Ingram II coming off a 1,000-yard season, Gus Edwards and Justice Hill.
Jackson is such a gifted runner that Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman will undoubtedly still want to use his unique quarterback's running ability as a weapon. The Ravens still plan to be a run-heavy offense and Jackson will be supportive if the running backs get more opportunities.
"We got great running backs," Jackson said. "We got Mark Ingram, we've got Gus Edwards, we've got Justice Hill, we've got J.K. Dobbins. I feel like we're going pretty good with the rushing part. But if I have to, a play breaks down, no one's open, I do my thing."
Jackson Believes 'Hollywood' Will Shine, Likes Rookie Receivers
Much has been said about Marquise "Hollywood" Brown potentially having a breakout season, and Jackson agrees with that notion. Brown has bulked up after a strenuous offseason workout and training program, and Jackson and Brown worked out together on several occasions in South Florida.
Jackson believes his close friend will make a major jump after a strong rookie season (46 catches, 584 yards, seven touchdowns). Brown played injured last season while recovering from Lisfranc surgery, but the screws have been removed from his foot and Jackson says people will notice the difference.
"I feel like he's going to have a huge jump, more than people may think," Jackson said. "He was hurt last year, people didn't know that, but he went out there and battled his tail off each and every game on a messed up foot. Now his full potential is going to show this year I feel. He's still young, but he's going to show off. My job is to get the ball out quicker, because he's a lot faster with that foot 100 percent."
The chemistry between Jackson and Brown is excellent, both on the field and off. Jackson wants to build a similar bond with the two wide receivers that Baltimore drafted this year – third-round pick Devin Duvernay and sixth-round pick James Proche. Jackson organized one offseason workout session in Florida that several receivers were able to attend, including Brown and Proche.
"(We) found a park in Hollywood, we just went out there and got our grind on," Jackson said. "We had to build some type of chemistry before we go to training camp. We didn't want to go into camp and be embarrassing ourselves. We got some work in. It wasn't like I wanted it, because we weren't able to do it as much as possible. (But) guys were looking pretty good out there."
Jackson can't wait to build more chemistry with the rookies once they get on the field together during camp. This will be a challenging season for rookies to make an impact, but Jackson believes Duvernay and Proche have the talent to do it.
"I feel like they're it," Jackson said. "Devin, he's a fast guy. James Proche, his route running, his hands are different. I can't wait to see him with pads on."
Jackson Not Flipping Out Over Jet Ski Encounter
Some Ravens fans may have felt their heart skip a beat this summer when a video surfaced showing Jackson playing football on the beach and coming too close for comfort to a jet ski that was docked on the shore. As Jackson scrambled with the football, he ran into the water and tumbled over the jet ski into the water.
Jackson wanted to set the record straight that he did not collide with the jet ski. He was actually trying to avoid running into a woman so he ran at the jet ski.
"I did not run into a jet ski," Jackson said. "I jumped over the jet ski, fell in the water."
In an interview on "The Lounge" podcast to be released soon, Jackson said he did not receive any calls about the incident from anyone in the Ravens organization.