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Ravens QB Lamar Jackson misses practice a day after returning from ankle injury

A day after a gimpy return to practice, Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson missed Thursday’s workout with a right ankle injury that could again sideline him for Sunday’s crucial game against the Los Angeles Rams.

Jackson was in obvious discomfort at Wednesday’s practice, his first since being carted off the field in a Week 14 loss to the Cleveland Browns. But coach John Harbaugh had said before the session that he was “really hopeful” Jackson would start for the first time in three weeks. His absence pushes the Ravens one step closer to starting backup Tyler Huntley in what amounts to a must-win game in Baltimore.

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Offensive coordinator Greg Roman acknowledged before practice Thursday that the Ravens, losers of four straight games, didn’t know who their starting quarterback would be Sunday. He said the team would “spread the reps around” this week to “be ready for anything.” Huntley, who’s impressed in five games this season, including two starts, was a full participant Thursday after missing Sunday’s blowout loss to the Cincinnati Bengals and Wednesday’s practice while on the reserve/COVID-19 list.

Typically, the Ravens’ starting quarterback gets most of the repetitions in practice, if not all, Roman said. “But under the circumstances,” he added, “we may adjust that.” Third-string journeyman Josh Johnson, who started Sunday because of Jackson’s ankle injury and Huntley’s coronavirus designation, has spent just over two weeks with the team.

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“You obviously want to get your starter the reps” in practice, Roman said Thursday. “But when there’s a chance that multiple guys could play, you’ve got to start to consider: Should we give this guy some reps? Can this guy handle all those reps? Are we better off kind of putting him on a pitch count, spreading them out?

“So I think there’s definitely some options there, and as unique as these situations have been, they’ve been pretty straightforward up until this point, because we knew who our starter was going to be.”

At practice Wednesday, Jackson had a slight limp as he jogged across the field, and he tended not to drive off his injured back foot in passing drills. If he plays Sunday with limited mobility, the Ravens could struggle to keep him out of harm’s way against a fearsome Rams pass rush. Roman said star defensive tackle Aaron Donald (12 sacks) is “darn-near unblockable” and called outside linebackers Leonard Floyd (nine sacks) and Von Miller (5 ½ sacks) “a real toxic combination for offenses.”

The Rams also have the sixth-most interceptions in the NFL this season (16) and enter Week 17 with the league’s sixth-most efficient defense, according to Football Outsiders, the highest of any Ravens opponent this season. Jackson has struggled since early November, setting career highs in both sacks and interceptions this season.

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If he practices in Friday’s walk-through, Ravens officials could wait to decide on Jackson’s availability as late as Sunday morning. If he’s absent again, he’ll likely miss his fourth straight game.

“I think it really comes down to, is he ready to play?” Roman said. “I’m sure in his mind, he’s ready to play, but I think as coaches, it’s our responsibility to make sure that he’s in good enough health that he can go out there and play the way we need him to play … and be able to play and make sure he’s able to protect himself adequately.”

Notes: Also absent Thursday were wide receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown (illness), tight end Nick Boyle (rest), left tackle Alejandro Villanueva (rest), left guard Ben Powers (foot), defensive tackle Brandon Williams (rest), outside linebacker Odafe Oweh (foot) and cornerback Anthony Averett (ribs/chest). Powers, Oweh and Averett all missed Wednesday’s practice as well.

Along with Huntley and defensive lineman Justin Madubuike (reserve/COVID-19 list), four Ravens returned to practice: wide receiver Devin Duvernay (knee), fullback Patrick Ricard (knee), inside linebacker Malik Harrison (illness) and defensive back Anthony Levine Sr. (knee). All four were limited participants.

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