Ravens' John Harbaugh on Lamar Jackson’s return: 'I’m just probably going to leave all that stuff alone and focus on the game'

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson missed his 13th straight practice on Wednesday and head coach John Harbaugh opted not to give updates on his status as the team prepares to face the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday in the regular-season finale.

“I’m just probably going to leave all that stuff alone and focus on the game and just be ready to coach our guys and have our guys ready for the game,” Harbaugh said Wednesday when asked if Jackson would be ready for the postseason.

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On Dec. 4, Jackson left a game against the Denver Broncos early in the second quarter with a knee injury and was later ruled out.

Harbaugh told reporters that the injury, later confirmed to be a PCL sprain, would leave Jackson out for “days to weeks,” but wouldn’t be season ending.

Two days later, fans got what seemed to be confirmation that Jackson could return soon, after ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that Jackson’s injury would sideline him for “1-to-3 weeks.”

Then, the outlook appeared to change when The Baltimore Sun reported Jackson's recovery timeline to be “within the four-to six-week recovery window as far as team trainers and physicians are concerned, according to a league source.”

Now, exactly a month after Jackson went down, Harbaugh seems annoyed about giving updates on the quarterback's status.

The Ravens clinched a playoff berth in Week 16 and it’s possible Harbaugh is simply frustrated by the circumstances. Jackson was playing at an MVP-candidate level in October. Having a quarterback of that caliber unavailable for the most important part of the season definitely isn’t ideal.

The Ravens are 2-2 in Jackson’s absence. The team’s Week 15 loss to the Cleveland Browns, especially, showcased the need for Jackson’s return.

However, Harbaugh and the Ravens’ choice not to confirm that Jackson’s recovery is taking longer than expected is strange. The confusion grows when Harbaugh’s response is viewed from the lens of Jackson’s contract situation, which took center stage in most discussions about the Ravens when he reportedly turned down an estimated $250 million offer from the team before the season.

The Ravens can still use the franchise tag on Jackson this offseason, but there is likely to be tension over that if Jackson doesn't get a long-term extension.

Regardless of this season not going the way Jackson may have hoped, the 25-year-old would likely still attract a ton of interest as a free agent or in a trade.

Jan 1, 2023; Baltimore, Maryland, USA; Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) holds a ball on the sidelines during the game Pittsburgh Steelers  at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson has been out for longer than expected. (Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports)