Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson pondered for just a moment the possibility of playing some of the NFL season without fans in the stands and summed it up nicely.
“I don’t know. … I’ve never seen anything like that,” he said during his Zoom video conference call with reporters this week. “I’ve never played football without people watching, so I don’t know. I don’t know.”
There’s a lot we don’t know right now. The entire sport world is in limbo and the best we can hope for at the moment is for one of the most exciting athletes in the world to sit still for half an hour in front of his laptop and tell us what it’s like to be the next “Madden NFL” cover boy and not know if there’s even going to be a real season.
If the NFL does go the no-fan route, we’re lucky to be in Baltimore where our star quarterback plays like he’s starring in a video game. Jackson hopes it doesn’t come to that.
“It’ll be like practice,’’ he said. “And it won’t be like camp practice, because we have a lot of fans at camp practices, so it would be like seasonal practices.”
Jackson is a trip. He’s not a young man of many words, but even sitting at a table in some non-descript Airbnb rental in Florida, he can’t help but be entertaining. Whether it’s making news because of a shout-out from the Tweeter-in-Chief or piquing our curiosity about his recent workout with controversial receiver Antonio Brown, he’s impossible not to like.
If only we could be sure that he’ll be out there on Sundays in September, running the record-setting offense that just carried the Ravens to their best regular season ever. Jackson obviously thinks that’s going to happen.
“The world needs football,” he said. “I think we’re going to be playing football this year, so I’m not going to put that [not playing] in my mind.”
With all that has happened over the last few months, the Ravens’ heart-breaking playoff loss to the Tennessee Titans seems like a long time ago, but not to Jackson. That failure and the postseason loss to the Los Angeles Chargers the year before burn inside him like a peptic ulcer and — he said Tuesday — the sting won’t go away until he gets back to the playoffs and flips the one script in his life that hasn’t been a fairy tale come true.
There is a saying about the good things that come to those who wait and Jackson’s career has been a shining example. It took a while for him to get the attention he deserved from college recruiters, then he went out and won the Heisman Trophy for his sensational sophomore season at Louisville. He almost got lost in the big quarterback class of the 2018 draft and only was taken in the first round because the Ravens surprised just about everyone by trading up to take him with the 32nd pick.
Two years later, he’s the reigning MVP and the guy who has to worry about the “Madden Curse” — though he insists he doesn’t — but his trophies are at home on a shelf and he’s ready to move forward as soon as the unhappy circumstance that has brought society to a near halt will allow it.
If you doubt that, consider his response to a question about the MVP award: “It honored me, but it didn’t make me a better player. That’s all.”
That humility only adds an extra dimension to all that talent. He obviously knows how good he is, but he never waves that in anybody’s face. In that respect, he’s a bit like Green Bay Packers great Brett Favre, who played with a world of confidence but always looked like a kid in the yard who was afraid he was going to get called in for dinner.
Hopefully, Jackson will get the chance to deliver a suitable encore to his terrific breakout season. The world does, indeed, need football and Baltimore certainly needs its newest superstar.