Lamar Jackson hasn’t been on the field since Dec. 4 and his string of missed games is about to reach six.
The Baltimore Ravens are more hopeful backup quarterback Tyler Huntley will be available than the injured Jackson when they visit their NFC North-rival Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday night in the AFC wild-card round.
Jackson injured his knee against the Denver Broncos five-plus weeks ago and progress has been slow. A big part of Jackson’s game is his legs, and he missed his 16th consecutive practice Wednesday due to knee swelling that has yet to subside.
Jackson could become an unrestricted free agent after the season if a contract extension isn’t reached. Baltimore could slap the franchise tag on him in that case to keep him off the free-agent market.
Jackson operates as his own agent, leading to speculation the big money at stake is part of this equation.
“I don’t really have anything to say to them right now because I’m focusing on the game,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said of the contract fodder. “That’s what we’re focusing on.”
Harbaugh said he has “no updates at this time,” per Jackson’s health and that leaves sixth-seeded Baltimore (10-7) hoping Huntley will be available. He missed last Sunday’s 27-16 loss in the regular-season finale to these same Bengals due to shoulder and wrist injuries.
Huntley was limited in Wednesday’s practice while dealing with shoulder soreness.
“He’s doing a lot better,” Harbaugh said of Huntley. “He was out there in practice and took a bunch of plays. I’d say he’s on schedule, hopefully, and we’ll see where it goes.”
If Huntley is unavailable, Anthony Brown will get the call. He made his first career start against Cincinnati last weekend and was 19-of-44 passing for 286 yards but also threw two interceptions and lost a fumble.
There are no concerns about the quarterback on third-seeded Cincinnati’s side of the field. Star Joe Burrow is aiming to lead the Bengals (12-4) back to the Super Bowl for the second straight season.
Cincinnati won its final eight regular-season contests since losing to the Cleveland Browns on Halloween. And Burrow is ready to ignite his burning desire to add more postseason wins to the resume.
“You can’t go out there scared in the moment,” Burrow said. “You have to be a little arrogant to go out there in that moment and make plays you need to make.”
Second-year wideout Ja’Marr Chase played on a national championship team with Burrow in college at LSU three seasons ago and also saw him step up during last season’s postseason run.
So Chase has seen this episode before.
“It’s something he probably always wanted to be in, every big-time game he probably dreamed of being in,” Chase said. “That’s a moment he’s always ready for, he studies for. That’s what he’s always in meetings for.”
The Bengals were a Cinderella-like squad last season before the fairy-tale run that included back-to-back road wins over the top-seeded Tennessee Titans and second-seeded Kansas City Chiefs.
This time around, Cincinnati is viewed as an upper-echelon AFC squad along with the Chiefs and Buffalo Bills. And coach Zac Taylor isn’t expecting the season to be ending against the Ravens.
“I expect our guys to come out on fire,” Taylor said. “With the stadium we’re going to have, the atmosphere we’re going to have Sunday night, it’s going to be electric, and our guys are going to embrace it and play their tails off.”
The Ravens won the season’s first meeting with Cincinnati, but the Jackson situation has certainly dimmed their chances of winning in the eyes of outsiders.
“I don’t know if everybody’s going to believe in us outside the locker room, but we’re for dang sure going to believe in ourselves here,” Ravens six-time Pro Bowl defensive end Calais Campbell said. “We’re going to give it our best shot.”
In addition to Jackson, running back Gus Edwards (concussion) and long snapper Nick Moore (illness) missed Wednesday’s practice due to injuries. Cornerback Brandon Stephens (illness) also sat out but is back in Baltimore after being hospitalized in Cincinnati last Sunday after becoming “acutely ill,” according to the team.
Receiver Tee Higgins (illness) sat out for the Bengals, while guard Alex Cappa (ankle) will miss the contest. Max Scharping will start in his place.
–Field Level Media