OWINGS MILLS, Md. – Lamar Jackson has a simple explanation for why he decided to participate in voluntary practices for the Baltimore Ravens this year.
“New offense,” he said. “Had to get that down pat before the season rolls in. Because the season's getting nearer, even though we got a couple months left. But still, just wanted to learn the new offense and get with my guys.”
The Ravens are going through something of a honeymoon phase after reaching a $260 million, five-year deal with Jackson late last month. His presence on the practice field Wednesday was another positive sign. Jackson skipped this part of Baltimore's offseason work last year, although he attended the mandatory camps.
His earlier arrival this year comes as the Ravens prepare for the season under new offensive coordinator Todd Monken. Jackson is hopeful Baltimore will be able to create big plays in the passing game and rely less on the run — including his own running.
“Just being able to throw the ball down the field," he said. "Running can only take you so far, and I feel like with this new era of teams and offenses in the league, I feel like we need that. Coach Todd Monken, what I'm seeing in this offense so far is looking tremendous.”
Jackson said Monken's offense seems more up-tempo. The Ravens put up impressive time of possession numbers in recent seasons, and that has its own benefits, but with a quarterback like Jackson, they could probably do more to put pressure on defenses.
“It's a little college in it — a little college system a little bit. But definitely faster," Jackson said. “It's cool to me. It's new.”
It's hard to say how much difference Jackson's attendance at practice in May will make in a season that starts in September. Coach John Harbaugh said he doesn't have a problem with the absences of tight end Mark Andrews and newly acquired receiver Odell Beckham Jr. — but he obviously prefers to have as many players in Owings Mills as possible.
“I think it's important. I'm a coach,” Harbaugh said. “I want every player here all the time doing everything they can. Now, is that necessarily the best thing? I don't know. Everybody's got their own circumstance, and that's OK.”
Jackson said he may be a different kind of leader going forward, and perhaps his decision to report earlier will help with that.
“I'm going to try to be more of a vocal leader,” Jackson said. “Coach was like, ‘You need to start speaking more.’”
Rookie receiver Zay Flowers was at practice, along with wideout Rashad Bateman, back from a foot injury that limited him to six games last season.
For obvious reasons, however, Jackson's presence is the big story. He's the standout quarterback who now has a huge contract and made the effort to come to a voluntary practice. His arrival wasn't necessarily a surprise, but it suggests the Ravens are very much on the same page as they look toward the 2023 season.
“I'm excited that he's here. Of course," Harbaugh said. "But I knew he was going to come in sometime right around now. For him to be here is great. He was into it, into the meetings. He was locked in, the last two days been completely locked in.”
NOTES: The Ravens signed DT Angelo Blackson. ... Harbaugh said the Ravens voted against the recently approved rule on kickoffs that puts the ball at the receiving team's 25 after a fair catch behind that yard line.
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