Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh talks about their win over the Cleveland Browns, capturing the first seed bye in the NFL playoffs.
Quarterback Lamar Jackson will not be active for the Ravens’ regular-season finale Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers, one of four standouts whom coach John Harbaugh said Monday would not play in Week 17.
With the Ravens having already secured home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs, guard Marshal Yanda, safety Earl Thomas III and defensive tackle Brandon Williams will join Jackson as inactive players Sunday. Only 46 of a team’s 53 active players can be activated on game day.
Running back Mark Ingram II, who suffered a calf strain in Sunday’s 31-15 win over the Cleveland Browns, which secured a first-round bye, also will not play as he recovers from the injury.
“After that, we’ll still decide as the week goes on,” Harbaugh said. “I think one thing that’s really important to understand is, this is pro football, not college football. You can’t sit your starters in a game. That’s not how it works. You have up to seven options if you’re completely healthy. We don’t know exactly if we’ll be completely healthy or not. We’re very healthy, so that does bode well."
Harbaugh said Jackson, the heavy favorite for NFL Most Valuable Player honors, had not yet been told about his Week 17 role, but the second-year star said Sunday that he would do whatever the coaching staff needed him to. Backup Robert Griffin III is expected to start Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium, but Harbaugh indicated that third-string quarterback and special teams player Trace McSorley also could earn snaps. McSorley has been inactive in every game this season.
Harbaugh, who consulted with Yanda and other players about the team’s rest-versus-rust scenario during their flight back Sunday from Cleveland, as well as members of the Ravens’ coaching staff, said the decision to rest starters before the wild-card-round bye was “not that hard of a decision, really.”
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“I think it’s a solid decision,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s easy. I think there’s a strong case to be made either way, and I really recognize the other side of it. I think it’s a fair, valid case. You know, it’s real. So you’ve just got to kind of balance it out between two good choices, really.”
>> Harbaugh took issue with the pass-interference call against cornerback Jimmy Smith in the second quarter that led to the Browns’ first touchdown. Harbaugh challenged the play, hoping the penalty would be disallowed because the ball to wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., he believed, was uncatchable.
“I thought the contact was minimal,” Harbaugh said. “I don’t think there was any contact that made a difference. That’s just my opinion. That’s why I challenged it, and then that the ball was 4 feet over his head. So, I mean, what are you going to do?”
Harbaugh also was miffed that inside linebacker L.J. Fort’s would-be interception in the third quarter was ruled an incompletion after a Browns challenge. “I don’t get it. Explain it to me, please, so we can understand,” he said. “But I thought that he got an interception there.”
>> Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph, who started against the Ravens in Week 5, is expected to miss Sunday’s game with a left shoulder injury, according to ESPN. Undrafted rookie Devlin Hodges, who’s started the past four games, has struggled of late, throwing one touchdown and six interceptions while being sacked seven times in back-to-back losses to the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets.