Talent and great play on the field aren't always the determining factors in a player getting a long-term deal; character often comes into the equation. In the case of Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, the two-time Pro Bowler and 2019 unanimous league MVP in 2019, he has all of the above, according to his teammates. Many of them stated their case for the 26-year-old to return to the team next season on a new contract with his rookie deal now complete after five seasons.
"You can't let a guy like him go," Ravens defensive end Calais Campbell said Monday as players were cleaning out their lockers following the team's 24-17 Super Wild Card Weekend defeat at the hands of the Cincinnati Bengals. "I know it's football, and there's always some new exciting toy, new exciting kid that has potential to go out there and be great. but this is a for-sure, a known. You know Lamar Jackson is an incredible player. I think it's in the best interests of the Ravens' organization to give him a long-term contract, make him our guy."
Since the 26-year-old did not travel with the team for its playoff game against its AFC North rival after ruling himself out in a social media post, where Jackson described the PCL injury in his knee as a grade 2 sprain on Twitter on Thursday. His decision not to play sparked some controversy. However, Campbell and others in the Ravens locker didn't have any issue with how their quarterback handled the end of the season.
"I think that's a lot of outside noise," Campbell said. "We're here. We get to talk to him. We get to communicate with him. We get to see him rehab. I mean, I was rehabbing with him. I know he put the work in. He just didn't get back in time.
"Those injuries, I know how it goes. I've been injured plenty of times before. Some stuff you can play through, some stuff you can't. It wasn't for lack of effort, that's for sure. The outside world, all the different narratives and stuff … sometimes it's humorous. Lamar Jackson's a guy who loves the game of football. I truly believe he worked as hard as he could to give himself a chance to play. As he gets older and more wise, he'll learn how to take care of his body in different ways."
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Ronnie Stanley, his left tackle, missed 26 games between the 2020 and 2021 seasons while trying to get healthy from an ankle injury that required multiple surgeries. He also had no issue with how Jackson went about his rehabilitation process.
"I never once questioned Lamar's tactics when it came to his body," Stanley said Monday. "He knows what's going on in his body more than we all know. I felt the same about my situation. There's a lot of things that may look good to the normal eye that may seem like someone can perform. But when you do this at a high level, you know if you can be effective or not. I trust Lamar."
Jackson posted a cryptic message on his Instagram story after Baltimore's season ended on Sunday, calling into question the trust he and the Ravens have in each other:
"When you have something good, you don't play with it," he wrote. "You don't take chances losing it. You don't neglect it. When you have something good, you pour into it. You appreciate it. Because when you take care of something good, that good thing takes care of you too."
Guaranteed money is reportedly a sticking point in negotiations between the Ravens and their Pro Bowl quarterback. This summer, he reportedly turned down a six-year deal that included $133 million guaranteed. A franchise tag is still a likely option.
Count Stanley among those who believe the Ravens will do what it takes to keep Jackson as a member of their flock going forward.
"It doesn't weigh on me all that much," Stanley said when asked about Jackson's future with the team. "All I know is that I want Lamar to be playing here with me as long as I'm playing. He knows that and I have full faith that they're going to work something out. In my mind, I know he's going to be here. He's a competitor, he wants to win, and this is his team and his offense. The money is not the most important thing to Lamar. He really wants to win, contrary to popular belief."
Jackson and three-time Pro Bowl tight end Mark Andrews have been in lockstep since entering the NFL together in the 2018 draft. Andrews has the fourth-most catches (336), third-most receiving yards (4,313), and second-most receiving touchdowns (34) among tight ends since he entered the league, and he echoed the prevailing sentiment across the Baltimore locker room: bring Lamar Jackson back to the Ravens for 2023 and beyond.
"Yes, I hope that he's going to be back," Andrews said Monday. "That's my guy. I have nothing but love and respect for No. 8 as a person, as a player and as a friend. I love the guy, so I hope he's back."