Baltimore Ravens training camp observations: John Harbaugh, teammates get Lamar Jackson’s back

All eyes were on QB Lamar Jackson during the first day of Baltimore Ravens training camp in Owings Mills, Md., on Wednesday.

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — If Lamar Jackson wanted to make sure his contract status wasn’t a major distraction at Baltimore Ravens training camp this summer, his appearance on the practice field on Wednesday at the Under Armour Performance Center accomplished that feat.

Jackson, who is set to play on his fifth-year option, handled himself like he was in midst of a lucrative long-term deal, directing the offense and chatting it up with teammates.

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Jackson shines on Day 1, Harbaugh downplays outside noise

While Jackson didn’t speak to the media following the first practice of camp, his head coach, John Harbaugh, was happy to have him leading the team during a pivotal day in the Ravens’ chemistry-building process.

Harbaugh has heard all of the outside noise about Jackson’s style of play and his contract situation, and the head coach says the quarterback isn’t distracted by the criticism or rumors.

“Well, with Lamar, I’d say no, because he’s used to it,” Harbaugh said after practice. “He’s been hearing the same things since he was probably in junior high. I know he heard it in college, and I know he heard it from the draft. I know he’s hearing from some of the same people saying the same things in the draft. That keeps coming up. I don’t know who this guy named anonymous is, I haven’t met him yet … It’s just baloney, it’s just nothing. It’s a big nothing burger.”

Harbaugh wasn’t the only member of the organization who was thrilled to see No. 8 donning his black practice jersey.

Second-year wideout Rashod Bateman, Jackson’s projected No. 1 wide receiver this season, was also amped to see the franchise QB in his rightful place. But the wideout noted he wasn’t worried based on their private workouts together.

“We don’t really care what nobody else is saying, we’re just excited that our No. 1 quarterback is out here,” Bateman said. “He throws to us on Sundays, so we’re going to need him out here every single day.”

Jackson’s performance with young receiving corps

While the Ravens simply wore jerseys and shorts, they still took part in limited team drills.

Jackson started off on fire, connecting on his first four throws in 11-on-11 work. He started the period with an impressive throw to wideout Devin Duvernay on the sideline. Duvernay was tightly contested by cornerback Brandon Stephens but still hauled in the ball.

Following the quick 11-on-11 session, the offense worked on installs for most of the practice. During the final period, the group returned to team drills, where Jackson had up-and-down moments.

Jackson completed three of his six throws during the period. However, one incomplete pass was a clear drop by wideout James Proche II, and another was an impressive pass breakup by cornerback Marlon Humphrey.

The highlight of practice came from another connection between Jackson and Duvernay. Jackson heaved the ball roughly 20 yards down the field, and Duvernay twisted and contorted his body to make a diving catch to the ground in front of cornerback Kevon Seymour.

“I love it,” guard Kevin Zeitler said. “Everyone knows the quarterback is the heart and soul of your team, and the team is only going to go so far with the QB. Him being out here, doing his thing, working every day, it’s amazing for us, and [I] can’t wait for him to have his best year ever.”

Jackson, who looks bulkier than in previous years, drew loud cheers from the fans in attendance during individual drills. His throws on air were precise, especially down the field.

“I would say he’s better all-around this year,” Bateman said. “I feel like all of us are. We all took this offseason pretty serious because we’re hungry and ready for more. I’m excited to see what we do.”

Ravens injury updates

Nine players were absent from Wednesday’s practice. While Harbaugh acknowledged that running back J.K. Dobbins (knee) wants to get back on the field, he remains on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list. Harbaugh mentioned that Dobbins would do some individual work after practice without adding any insight into the activity.

Along with Dobbins, fellow running back Gus Edwards, offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley, linebacker Tyus Bowser, cornerback Marcus Peters, and safety Ar’Darius Washington remained on the PUP list. Guard Ben Cleveland, who is competing for the starting left guard job, was placed on the non-football injury (NFI) list ahead of practice.

Tight end Charlie Kolar, who isn’t on any injury list, is dealing with a possible sports hernia and did not practice.

Second-round pick David Ojabo was not on the practice field as he is the only draft pick in the NFL who hasn’t signed a rookie contract. However, he wouldn’t have been able to participate even if he had signed a deal, as he suffered an Achilles tear during the draft process and hasn’t been cleared to work out. After practice, Harbaugh said that there is no update on Ojabo’s contract status.

Defensive backs have their moments

As with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ workout earlier in PFN’s Training Camp Tour, the Ravens defense did a nice job on Day 1. There were quite a few pass breakups in team drills later in the workout.

Humphrey had the defensive play of the day with the aforementioned pass breakup on a throw from Jackson to Bateman. Humphrey let out a yell when the practice started, and after the workout, he said he was excited to go up against his teammates this summer. Humphrey’s battles with Bateman will be a primary feature of camp.

During 7-on-7 drills, new high-priced safety Marcus Williams broke up a pass over the middle from backup QB Anthony Brown to tight end Mark Andrews. On the next play, safety Tony Jefferson broke up a pass from Brown to tight end Nick Boyle. The pass was a beautiful loft throw that hit Boyle in the hands, but Jefferson was able to wrangle the ball loose.

Quick hits from Ravens training camp

  • Prior to practice, the Ravens signed former USFL wideout Bailey Gaither. The wideout played for the Pittsburgh Maulers in the spring league.
  • Running back Corey Clement, formerly of the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles, was on the practice field wearing No. 31. He was pretty active for a player who just signed the day before.
  • Backup QB Tyler Huntley had an impressive over-the-middle connection with wideout Tyler Wallace in 11-on-11 drills. Huntley was forced to move around in the pocket before taking an awkward angle to throw. The ball still hit Wallace in stride for a big gain. Later, Huntley ended practice with another nice strike to Wallace.
  • Tight end Josh Oliver made an impressive contested catch over the middle on a ball from Jackson in 11-on-11. He is clearly competing for a deep-depth tight end spot behind Mark Andrews and Nick Boyle. The Ravens drafted Kolar and Isaiah Likely in April, so the odds are stacked against him a bit.
  • On Thursday, the PFN Training Camp Tour continues with a stop in Ashburn, Va., for the Washington Commanders’ training camp practice.

Mike Kaye is the Lead NFL Reporter for Pro Football Network. Follow him on Twitter: @mike_e_kaye.

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