There’s no question that keeping Lamar Jackson healthy is a top priority for Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh.
The best way to do that is to keep Jackson off the field, but that’s not going to happen if there’s a shred of a chance that Baltimore’s opponent can rally from a rather sizable deficit.
Jackson is a quarterback who likes to run, and he doesn’t skip out of bounds if there’s extra yardage to be gained. The 2019 NFL MVP also will hang in the pocket while under pressure if his receiver needs another second or two to break free of coverage.
Jackson did all of those things Sunday against Cleveland, running for 45 yards and throwing for 275 yards and three touchdowns. Yet he was still taking snaps until Harbaugh finally kept him on the sideline when Baltimore’s offense entered with 4 minutes left and the Ravens ahead 38-6.
That was the same score with 10 minutes to go, but Harbaugh sent his quarterback onto the field, a move that was questioned Monday during a Zoom call with the coach.
“You look around the league, you’ll see that not too many people are taking their quarterbacks out with 10 minutes left in the game,” Harbaugh said. “That’s historically true. People who say that should be done, I’d have to disagree with that.”
Jackson is the most important player on the team, and his downfield sprints make him more susceptible to injury that most quarterbacks. Harbaugh understands this, but has no intention of making Jackson shelve the quality that makes him so much of a threat.
“Lamar does a great job of protecting himself. Every player out there is in a situation where you’re at risk,” Harbaugh reasoned. “You try to minimize it as much as you can, but you can’t run from it. You can’t play scared. You’ve got to play the game to win, Lamar does that.”
So, in a season opener that Baltimore seemingly had in hand, Jackson played deep into the fourth quarter. Didn’t get hurt, either.
“We could take him out of the game at halftime,” Harbaugh said. “That might keep him safer, too, but we’re not going to do that.”