When Lamar Jackson picked up his phone for a call from John Harbaugh, he didn’t really believe his head coach. Harbaugh said the team was considering trading top wide receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown — one of Jackson’s best friends on the team.
“I was just listening to him and he was saying we’re thinking about trading,” Jackson said Thursday in his first news conference since January. “But I didn’t really buy into it. I’m like, ‘Oh, this is just conversation.’”
It was more than conversation. The Ravens traded Brown to the Arizona Cardinals during the first round of the 2022 NFL draft in exchange for the 23rd overall pick. The Ravens would later trade back two spots with the Buffalo Bills and select center Tyler Linderbaum, the presumed starter this year.
After the trade, Brown said on the “I Am Athlete” podcast that he wasn’t happy in the Ravens’ system.
“I let [Jackson] know again [toward the end of last season], like, ‘Yeah, bro, I can’t do it,’” Brown said. “And it’s not really on Lamar. Like, I love Lamar. It was just, the system wasn’t for me, personally. I love all my teammates, I love the guys, but it was just something I had to think about for myself. The Ravens — we both handled it the right way. I didn’t go out and make anything public. I just kept it in-house, kept working and, you know, it all worked out.”
Jackson and Brown would often drive to games and practices together. Jackson said he didn’t have a memory of talking about Brown’s frustrations in the offense. Instead, they partied in the car listening to music.
So even with the call from Harbaugh, Jackson was surprised on draft night when news of the trade became official.
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“When it actually happened, I’m like, ‘What the [expletive],” Jackson said. “But it’s all good, it’s part of the business.”
His viral “WTF” tweet on draft night was partly related to the Brown trade, Jackson said.
The conversation Harbaugh had described clearly had led to a deal in the plans before the draft began. Brown made an appearance at the Cardinals draft party in Arizona just a few minutes after the trade was announced.
Jackson said several times that he knows the NFL is a business and he’s felt chemistry building with new top receiver Rashod Bateman entering his second season in the NFL.
But losing Brown remained surprising to him. Brown was drafted in the first-round in 2019, a year after Jackson’s first-round selection, to be the young quarterback’s top receiver. In three years with the Ravens, Brown had 195 catches for 2,361 yards and 21 touchdowns. In 2021, Brown had 1,008 receiving yards and started 16 games, both career highs.
So while Jackson feels confident with the players here, he’ll miss his close friend.
“I was hurt because that’s my boy,” Jackson said.