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Mike Preston: QB Lamar Jackson’s poor decision-making again puts himself and the Ravens in a difficult spot | COMMENTARY

Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson needs to hire a professional familiar with the inner workings of the NFL before his career starts moving downward or possibly implodes.

Without question, he is the most explosive offensive player in the game, but he has no one around him to provide sound advice about his off-the-field behavior or even the multi-million dollar contract he is negotiating with the Ravens.

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Jackson is a nice guy, certainly not belligerent or nasty, but lacks discipline. The Ravens have tried to provide the 24-year-old star with the proper guidance and instruction, but the inner circle around Jackson keeps everyone at a distance and the fourth-year quarterback sheltered.

He is an overprotected kid.

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On the first day of training camp practice Wednesday, Ravens coach John Harbaugh announced that Jackson tested positive for COVID-19 for the second time since November. According to Harbaugh, whose team is considered one of the favorites to win the Super Bowl title in 2021, about 90% of his players have been vaccinated, as well as the entire coaching staff.

While the team hasn’t said which players are vaccinated, Jackson’s testing schedule since arriving at camp last Wednesday — he’s been tested daily whereas vaccinated players need only be tested every 14 days — suggests he’s among the minority of players who have not had the shot yet.

COVID numbers are spiking around the country and the NFL recently put out a memo stating that if games are postponed because of an outbreak of unvaccinated players on one team, that team will forfeit the game and players on both teams with not receive game checks.

And since the Ravens were fined $250,000 and had 23 players spend time on the reserve/COVID-19 list last year, you’d think someone would get in Jackson’s ear. But if his inner circle says no, Jackson will agree, regardless how selfish the move.

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There is no guarantee whether Jackson had been vaccinated or not that he wouldn’t have tested positive again, but it would have improved his chances as well as those of his teammates and others who work in the team’s Owings Mills complex. The benefits of these vaccines certainly outweigh the side effects.

In June, Jackson declined to say whether he was vaccinated or not, calling it a personal decision.

Regardless, the Ravens started training camp without him, and because of NFL protocol he might miss 10 days. (According to a memo shared with teams, an unvaccinated player who tests positive and is not showing symptoms must self-isolate for 10 days.) Harbaugh tried to downplay Jackson’s absence, but the Ravens spent most of this offseason preparing to draft rookie receivers Rashod Bateman and Tylan Wallace and signing free agent Sammy Watkins to increase production in the downfield passing game.

They’ll still have the opportunity, but 10 missed practices can’t be made up. Worse yet, this is a quarterback who struggles with mechanics. He needs time with his new receivers and their coaches.

Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, practicing during OTAs on June 2, is an overprotected kid, columnist Mike Preston writes.
Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, practicing during OTAs on June 2, is an overprotected kid, columnist Mike Preston writes. (Kenneth K. Lam)

In June 2020, there was Jackson in a video scrambling during a beach football game and falling over a nearby jet ski. Earlier this month, there was footage of Jackson taking reps at wide receiver and defensive back on a basketball court against local players.

Come on now, who is advising this guy? Under sound advice, who risks a $40 million a year contract on a cement surface?

It’s time for Jackson to put on his big boy pants, grow up and cut out the immature antics.

Harbaugh and team general manager Eric DeCosta are smart and reasonable men. Jackson has tremendous talent, but they also are seeing a pattern of poor decision-making that they haven’t been able to stop. Defending Jackson has to be getting old, from his lack of ability to throw outside the numbers to his antics.

The assumption here is that if the Ravens sign Jackson to a new contract, there has to be restrictions on his off-season activities. Maybe there has to be a common sense clause added that when you are one of the most famous players in the NFL it’s not a good idea to walk into a restaurant — like he did last week when he visited the Harbor East restaurant Blk Swan — without a mask during the recent COVID-19 surge.

After all, a lot of people want to meet Jackson, get his autograph and speak to him.

It’s sound advice, apparently something Jackson isn’t getting in his inner circle and is not mature enough to seek out on his own.

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