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Ravens worry about increased hits to Lamar Jackson’s legs: ‘The refs need to pay close attention to that’

“I feel great. I feel good. I’m 100 [percent],” said Jackson after practice when asked about playing on Thursday night.

Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson said he’s noticed opposing players taking more frequent shots at his legs, a growing concern for the Ravens as they try to keep their Most Valuable Player candidate healthy for a potential deep playoff run.

Jackson said that contrary to popular perception, the most dangerous hits he takes are not on runs, but on throws, when he doesn’t have time to protect himself.

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“Especially when I’m inside the pocket,” said Jackson, who’s been a limited participant in practices this week because of a quadriceps injury he suffered in Sunday’s 24-17 victory over the Buffalo Bills. “When I’m out on the edge, I kind of avoid it. But when I’m in the pocket, trying to complete a throw, that’s when nine times out of 10, they go for my legs. I can’t do nothing about it, because I’m trying to complete that pass.”

Jackson, who plans to play Thursday against the New York Jets, said he suffered the injury on the 61-yard touchdown pass he threw to tight end Hayden Hurst early in the third quarter in Buffalo. Bills defensive end Jerry Hughes hit him around his thighs just after he released the pass.

Jackson said he doesn’t feel the need to talk with game officials about such shots to his lower body. But teammate Earl Thomas III said he worries about the increased targeting of Jackson.

“On the sideline, every time somebody hits him, we’re like, ‘Man, he don’t need to be taking those hits,’ ” the veteran safety said. “I think the refs need to pay close attention to that as well and protect him a little bit more. I’m not saying they’re trying to hurt Lamar, but they’re definitely going at his legs more than they were doing it at first.”

Coach John Harbaugh was asked about the hits to Jackson after the San Francisco 49ers were whistled for two roughing-the-passer penalties in the Ravens’ Dec. 1 victory at M&T Bank Stadium.

“I’m not getting into it,” Harbaugh said. “Our job is to protect our quarterback. The officials’ job is to officiate the game.”

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