A week of Ravens practice that began with Lamar Jackson’s limping return ended with more uncertainty at quarterback as the team prepares for a crucial showdown Sunday with the Los Angeles Rams.
Jackson missed practice for a second straight day Friday, and his backup, Tyler Huntley, handled the media session usually allotted to the starting quarterback. But Ravens coach John Harbaugh would not rule out his franchise player for the Rams game. “I think he’s got a chance to play on Sunday,” he said. “We’ll have to see.”
Jackson was listed as questionable on the team’s final injury report of the week, while cornerback Anthony Averett (chest/ribs) was listed as out and outside linebacker Odafe Oweh (foot) was listed as doubtful.
With Jackson’s status up in the air and Huntley beginning the week on the reserve/COVID-19 list, the Ravens had to prepare as if any one of three quarterbacks — Josh Johnson is the other — could start against the Rams. It’s a conundrum for a team that could still clinch a playoff spot with victories in its last two games, but Harbaugh said the unusual has become usual for the injury- and illness-plagued Ravens. After all, they have started three different quarterbacks over their last three games.
“It’s not any more unusual than what we’ve seen this whole season,” he said. “I’d say it’s pretty normal at this point, believe it or not.”
Huntley is used to the roller coaster. He made his first NFL start against the Chicago Bears on a few hours’ notice after Jackson fell ill, spent a full week preparing to start against the Green Bay Packers and had the rug pulled out from him when he tested positive for COVID-19 the day before he would have started against the Cincinnati Bengals.
“I’m just treating this like another week,” he said Friday, two days before what could be the most important game of his young career. “I mean, more reps, it feels better going into the game. But at the end of the day, I still study and draw up my plays every week, so I just feel comfortable with whatever play’s being called. Whenever my number is called, I’ve got to execute at the highest level.”
He led the Ravens to a comeback win in Chicago and rallied them within a point against the Packers, the NFC’s top seed. He threw two touchdown passes and ran for two scores in that 31-30 loss.
Teammates have noted Huntley’s unruffled demeanor in the face of these stresses, and Harbaugh reiterated that impression. “It really doesn’t matter; he’s the exact same,” he said. “I’m sure he’s thinking, ‘I’m playing,’ so he’s ready to go. And if it turns out he doesn’t, he’ll be the same. That kind of demeanor … has served him well so far, and I think it will serve him well in his career.”
Huntley said he had “some tough symptoms” last weekend and that it hurt him to miss the Bengals loss, which greatly diminished the Ravens’ chances to win the AFC North.
But he said he felt fine after coming off the reserve/COVID-19 list and returning to practice Thursday.
Johnson started on one day’s notice against the Bengals, completing 28 of 40 passes for 304 yards and two touchdowns in that 41-21 defeat. He also had to prepare this week as if he might play against the Rams.
“We just have to maximize things as best we can with who is practicing and be ready for anything,” offensive coordinator Greg Roman said Thursday. “I think you definitely want to spread the reps around if you can and try to make sure that you’re prepared to the best percent possible.”
Jackson practiced Wednesday for the first time since he hobbled off the field with an ankle injury in the second quarter of team’s Week 14 loss to the Cleveland Browns. He limped noticeably, but Harbaugh said he had no regrets about testing his franchise quarterback.
“Those are medical decisions. Those are what the doctors and trainers do; we don’t make those decisions as coaches,” he said. “It didn’t make it any worse, so I don’t think it’s problem.”
Huntley remains optimistic about his teammate’s prospects and suggested chilly weather might have added to Jackson’s discomfort in practice.
“I’ve got good confidence that L.J. is going to be back to L.J., and everything’s going to be good,” he said.
Other Ravens who did not practice were: Averett (ribs/chest), wide receiver Marquise Brown (illness), Oweh (foot) and guard Ben Powers (toe), running back Latavius Murray (rest) and defensive end Calais Campbell (rest).
The Ravens had hoped Averett, their top remaining cornerback, would recover in time to face the Rams, with their deadly connection of quarterback Matthew Stafford and wide receiver Cooper Kupp. But he did not practice all week. Neither did Oweh, who is second on the team in sacks and quarterback hits as a rookie.
Powers was also listed as out on the injury report, while Brown, wide receiver Devin Duvernay (ankle), fullback Patrick Ricard (knee) and outside linebacker Daelin Hayes (knee) were listed as questionable. Duvernay was a full participant in Friday’s practice, while Hayes and Ricard were limited participants.
Sunday, 1 p.m.
TV: Ch. 45 Radio: 97.9 FM, 1090 AM
Line: Rams by 5 ½
Source: Berkshire mont