Baltimore Ravens expect Lamar Jackson back next week in 'great shape'

When Lamar Jackson returns to the Ravens, he'll have some new parts of the offense he'll need to learn, but coach John Harbaugh is confident his quarterback will be ready to lead. AP Photo/Gail Burton

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Wednesday that he expects quarterback Lamar Jackson to report to mandatory minicamp next week.

"I know he's working hard ... I fully expect him to come back in great shape," Harbaugh said. "I'm sure he's throwing. I'm sure he's doing a good job. When he gets back here, we'll be rolling with Lamar."

Jackson has not participated in the team's first three weeks of organized team activities, skipping all eight of the voluntary workouts. This is the first time in Jackson’s five-year NFL career that he has chosen not to attend the spring workouts, and Jackson hasn’t given a reason for his absence.

Jackson, the 2019 NFL MVP, is entering his fifth-year option, which will pay him $23.016 million this season. If the sides are unable to reach a new deal by February, Baltimore is expected to use the franchise tag on him.

After being absent from the first OTAs last month, Jackson tweeted “Can’t wait to get back” and told teammates that he would return soon. Jackson has been holding private throwing sessions in Florida and California with wide receivers Rashod Bateman and James Proche II, as well as throwing coach Adam Dedeaux.

Last week, Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman said Jackson will have some catching up to do when he comes back.

"We kind of went back and changed some things and added some things,” Roman said. "There are definitely some things that are new. There are also a bunch of things that he’s pretty well-adjusted to -- probably 80% stuff he knows, 20% stuff that we look forward to working on.”

In addition to the schematic changes, the Ravens will have a new look on offense in terms of personnel. After trading Marquise "Hollywood" Brown to the Arizona Cardinals in April, Baltimore’s new No. 1 wide receiver is Bateman, who played in just seven games with Jackson last season because they both battled injuries. The Ravens also added two pass-catching tight ends in the fourth round (Charlie Kolar and Isaiah Likely) to complement Mark Andrews and provide more options for a passing attack that finished 13th in the NFL last season.

Along the offensive line, Baltimore invested a first-round pick in starting center Tyler Linderbaum and signed right tackle Morgan Moses in free agency. In the backfield, Mike Davis is the top back until J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards, both of whom are coming off torn ACLs, return at some point in training camp.

In total, there could be as many as five different offensive starters in this season's opener compared to last year’s first game.

The last time Jackson addressed his absence was May 27, when he responded on Twitter to criticism from NBC Sports analyst Chris Simms for skipping the spring practice.

“Lamar wants to be Lamar,” Jackson wrote. “This part of OTAs is voluntary. I will be there, just not on your watch. It’s probably other QBs not attending voluntary OTAs either. Since it’s Lamar, it’s a huge deal. Find something else to talk about.”

Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen also missed OTAs recently to participate in their charity golf event The Match. Kyler Murray also missed some OTAs before returning.

The Ravens’ offense has faced increased scrutiny since Jackson was the unanimous NFL MVP in 2019, when Baltimore led the league in scoring at 33.2 points per game. In games in which Jackson has started, the Ravens’ scoring dropped to an average of 28.1 points in 2020 and 23.5 points in 2021.

Roman was asked if he was disappointed that Jackson has not been to OTAs.

“I’m not going to get into all of that,” Roman said. "I’ll let you talk to him about that, but our job as coaches is to develop everybody to their fullest, and when they’re here, we can do that. That’s what we’re focused on right now. I’m sure that Lamar is working hard, but he’ll have the chance, I’m sure at some point, to talk to you guys about that.”

With Jackson missing from OTAs, the Ravens have turned to Tyler Huntley, who was 1-3 as a fill-in for Jackson last season with two near-upsets of the Green Bay Packers and eventual Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams. During the open practices this spring, Huntley has been up and down, delivering some big strikes downfield and then throwing behind some open targets.

‘"The reps have been great for him. I think he’s doing a good job,” Harbaugh said. “He’s running the offense really well. The communication has been really good at the line. He can always get more consistent. I think that’s something he’s shooing for.”