Lamar Jackson is “antsy.”
It’s been 16 days since the Ravens quarterback has played football against someone other than his own teammates. Having sat out the Ravens’ season finale, a 17-10 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, Jackson will be at the end of a 20-day break by the time the Ravens play in the divisional round against the Houston Texans on Saturday.
And Jackson had just started to feel the offense getting in sync. Over the final four games Jackson played, part of a nine-game stretch that ranked the second-hardest in the NFL, the team took down some of the AFC’s and NFC’s best teams. They handled the favorites to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl, the San Francisco 49ers and their multitude of offensive weapons, as well as the Miami Dolphins’ high-powered offense.
“That was the thing about that bye week,” Jackson said. “I thought, ‘Dang, we have a bye week. We were getting into a groove. We were getting more and more dialed in.’”
The team was getting more comfortable in its scheme and had discovered some new weapons, Jackson said. But as coach John Harbaugh said, no one who’s ever earned the bye week is going to request to not have it; they worked hard for it.
So “it is what it is,” and Jackson said they acted as if every practice was a normal practice during a game week — they’ll just do it for six straight sessions (and a walk-through) instead of three. At least the game’s on Saturday, he added. The fact it’s a day earlier will help the week go faster.
For his part, Jackson got right to work on film study. He went back to Houston’s Week 1 game, a 25-9 loss to Jackson and his teammates, and went through every single week from there. He didn’t get to watch in real-time as the Texans beat the Cleveland Browns in the wild-card round, but he certainly studied that game. He came away impressed by the team’s improvement and their young quarterback, C.J. Stroud.
“They are playing lights-out ball right now,” Jackson said.
“From my experience, he [Stroud] played better than I did from my rookie playoff game, I would say that,” Jackson added. “He was throwing the ball all over the field, making things happen. He did great. He did great.”
Despite his extended break, Jackson believes he’s more prepared for playoffs than he’s ever been. When asked if he’ll jump into the postseason after sitting out the finale the way he jumped into regular season after sitting out the preseason games, Jackson said he believes he can do it again.
“I don’t have any other choice,” he said.
If Jackson wins this game, he will make it to the AFC championship game for the first time in his career. And he will be two wins away from a highly coveted Super Bowl ring. While in some ways, he’s been focused on that prize the whole season, Jackson said he’s locking in on each day as it comes.
“Just keeping my mind focused on the assignment,” he said. “Not letting anything enter into my mind that would mess up my thoughts for the game.”