Before Lamar Jackson took his first snap of the season, the football world was talking about whether the Baltimore Ravens' quarterback should have taken his team’s last contract offer and whether the lack of a new deal would become a distraction.
Jackson then went out and showed everyone what he’s always focused on this time of year — winning. In Sunday’s season-opening 24-9 victory at the New York Jets, Jackson delivered three big touchdown passes and, more importantly, delivered the Ravens’ first win since Nov. 28.
It didn’t matter that Baltimore began the season without two Pro Bowl players (offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley and cornerback Marcus Peters) as well as its top two running backs (J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards). The Ravens had Jackson back, and the former NFL MVP wasn’t thinking about contract talks that got tabled a few days earlier.
"He’s focused on us. He’s focused on the team,” Ravens wide receiver Rashod Bateman said. "We never talk about it. It doesn’t come up for us. We all know it’s there. But we also know we got to play football, and that’s what we focus on.”
Jackson was on point with his downfield passing. He became the first Ravens quarterback in eight years to throw three touchdown passes that traveled at least 15 yards in the air.
His first touchdown pass was a 25-yard strike to Devin Duvernay. This was the smallest passing window — there was 0.11 yards of separation — for any NFL touchdown pass over the past four seasons, according to NFL Next Gen Stats.
Jackson’s last touchdown was a 55-yard toss to Bateman. That was the first time Jackson had completed a throw that went 50-plus yards in the air, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh was just as impressed with how Jackson handled the offense. He managed the clock. He put teammates in the right spots. He showed poise in the pocket.
"He played a patient, veteran quarterback game,” Harbaugh said. "He was in control of everything. He played a really veteran, winning-quarterback type of a game.”
It was only eight months ago when the Ravens ended a disappointing season on a six-game losing streak. In 2021, the Ravens couldn’t overcome the loss of Jackson, who missed the final four games with a left ankle injury.
By getting Baltimore on the winning track again Sunday, Jackson became the fifth quarterback in the Super Bowl era to win at least 38 of his first 50 starts. Jackson trails only Patrick Mahomes and Ken Stabler, both of whom won 40 of their first 50 starts.
Ravens rookie center Tyler Linderbaum said he didn’t see any indication during pregame that Jackson was distracted.
"No. I think we were about beating the Jets,” Linderbaum said. “He's an awesome player. He's fun to play in front of. So anytime you can block for him, it's pretty special."
On Sunday morning, sources told ESPN’s Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter that Jackson turned down the Ravens’ five-year extension offer worth over $250 million with $133 million guaranteed at signing. Sources added that team officials balked at Jackson’s desire to have a fully guaranteed deal, similar to the one given to Deshaun Watson, which led to the Ravens announcing Friday that talks had been suspended until the end of the season.
After Sunday’s game, Jackson told ESPN’s Dianna Russini that he turned down an offer that included guaranteed money between $160 million and $180 million.
Asked if he’s “going to ride it out all year,” Jackson told Russini with a smile, “We’ll see.”