Sometimes, Marlon Humphrey has to remind Lamar Jackson he isn’t normal.
The Ravens cornerback remembers seeing the star quarterback try walking into an IHOP in Owings Mills, only to be escorted out after five minutes when fans started to recognize the 2019 NFL Most Valuable Player.
“I thought to myself, ‘He’s a pretty famous guy, I don’t know how this is going to work,’” Humphrey said. “You can’t just do normal things. He thinks he’s very normal. Inside of the building he is, but outside he’s such a superstar.”
As the Ravens held their first practice of training camp Wednesday — with fans back in full attendance after two years of coronavirus restrictions — Jackson is anything but a distraction. Humphrey, right guard Kevin Zeitler and wide receiver Rashod Bateman all echoed the same point: Jackson’s contract is not a point of discussion among players in the building.
As Jackson enters the final year of his rookie deal, a $23 million fifth-year option the Ravens picked up last offseason, there is no anxiety about his future in Baltimore. Humphrey said Jackson told him, “I’ll get it done when it gets done.”
“For some reason, people can’t really believe that, but everyone on the team knows it’s true,” Humphrey said.
Unlike other stars, Jackson isn’t holding out of training camp in pursuit of that new deal. He wants to be normal, and play football.
Zeitler said he loves seeing Jackson, whom he calls the “heart and soul of the team,” take the field. Bateman said it’s exciting catching passes from Jackson, knowing that he’s the one playing on Sundays. They’re playing football, not worrying about the contract. It’s not something Jackson talks about.
“For a guy who’s negotiating, he hasn’t said a word and his value just keeps going up,” said Zeitler, who’s entering his second season in Baltimore. “For anyone who gives him crap about it, he’s in charge of his own destiny right now and I think that’s the way he likes it.”
On Wednesday, Jackson completed five of eight passes in 11-on-11 drills and three of six in 7-on-7, although there were several drops. Bateman said Jackson looks bulked up and is better “all-around.” The best throw of the day was a precise back-shoulder pass to receiver Devin Duvernay on the right sideline.
As Jackson represents himself in negotiations with the Ravens, he remains focused on practicing. In February, general manager Eric DeCosta said the team was moving at “Lamar’s pace,” and there’s no indication that has changed.
“If Lamar’s not concerned about the contract, nobody should be concerned about the contract,” Bateman said.
Along with the six players on the physically-unable-to-perform list and injured outside linebacker David Ojabo, who is holding out for his rookie deal, guard Ben Cleveland (nonfootball injury list), rookie tight end Charlie Kolar (hernia) and undrafted wide receiver Devon Williams (nonfootball injury list) did not practice Wednesday.
In the past, the Ravens have placed players who failed the conditioning test on the nonfootball injury list just before training camp. Ravens coach John Harbaugh did not confirm if Cleveland failed the test, but did say most players passed.
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Outside linebacker Odafe Oweh, who had offseason shoulder surgery, was a full participant in team drills after being limited in organized team activities and minicamp in June. Defensive lineman Michael Pierce also practiced after missing OTAs and minicamp for personal reasons.
Running back J.K. Dobbins (knee), left tackle Ronnie Stanley (ankle) and cornerback Marcus Peters (knee), who were placed on the PUP list last week, looked on from the sidelines during practice. Dobbins even had his uniform on and seemed eager to get on the field.
“J.K. definitely wants to go,” said Harbaugh, who noted Dobbins participated in individual drills with trainers after practice. “He’s made it very clear.”
Harbaugh also said Stanley’s “body composition was really good” as the All-Pro tackle works to return to the field for the first time since last season’s opener against the Las Vegas Raiders.
“He’s really close to where he’s been in the past when he’s been at his best,” Harbaugh said. “I give him a lot of credit for the training that he’s done.”
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