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Ravens Insider: Lamar Jackson mostly absent from Ravens’ voluntary workouts so far: ‘It’s this time of year’

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Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson was again absent from voluntary organized team activities Thursday in Owings Mills, marking the third time in four sessions open to the media over the past two weeks.

It’s something coach John Harbaugh isn’t going to say much about.

“It’s this time of year,” Harbaugh said when asked if he was frustrated by the absence of Baltimore’s $260 million man and the NFL’s reigning Most Valuable Player. “It’s a voluntary time. It’s really not something we really comment on.

“I can’t speak for anybody that’s not here. I pretty much know the different reasons guys aren’t here most of the time, but not always. Nobody’s required to tell you exactly what’s going on. But the guys who are here, they’re great, they’re flying around.”

Jackson has been flying, too.

He spent this past weekend in Charlotte, North Carolina, where he attended NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600. He also spent time in Los Angeles last week, according to a post on his Instagram. Before that, he traveled to Germany and attended the Preakness. And he was on hand for at least one practice May 22, the first OTA session that was open to the media.

Put another way, he’s been mostly elsewhere. The practices, after all, are voluntary, with mandatory minicamp still two weeks away, the start of training camp two months away and the beginning of the season three months off.

Still, how big of a concern is it?

Jackson is coming off perhaps the best season of his career with highs in passing yards and completion percentage. He led the Ravens to the NFL’s best record during the regular season and within a game of the organization’s first Super Bowl appearance in more than a decade. He was named league MVP for the second time in six years.

To say that Harbaugh is worried about it would probably be an overstatement, but it didn’t take much squinting in the afternoon sun to see what his preference would be.

“I’m a coach,” he said when asked if there’s anything happening in the practices that could cause players who aren’t there to fall behind. “We want to be going forward as fast as we can. No drag, making ground, getting better every day. … It takes a lot of work to do that.”

May 30, 2024: Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh takes questions after OTAs on Thursday at the Under Armour Performance Center. (Kim Hairston/Staff)
“We want to be going forward as fast as we can. No drag, making ground, getting better every day. … It takes a lot of work to do that,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said of voluntary OTAs.

Which is perhaps why Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes has been a regular during Kansas City’s OTAs, as have other high-profile quarterbacks at their respective practices around the NFL. It’s the most important and unique position in the game, with time needed to develop timing and chemistry, among other things.

Jackson has typically been a regular at Ravens OTAs over the years, including last season after signing a lucrative long-term extension, and he still might be with more sessions to come Friday and next week.

Mahomes, meanwhile, is coming off his second straight Super Bowl title and third in five years. Like Jackson, he’s a two-time league MVP. He’s also a three-time Super Bowl MVP and perhaps the only player in the game better than Jackson at the moment.

Despite the accolades, though, Mahomes sees value in this part of the offseason when it comes turning the page from one season to the next.

“As I’ve gotten older and as I’ve learned more and more, I try to find different ways to tweak certain stuff and try to push the envelope even more,” he told reporters last week. “I think y’all saw today we tried to throw a few more deep passes, get back to the deep game. I think we’ve done a great job of mastering the intermediate and short stuff, but we want to get back to having that part of the offense as well. Coach is really pushing us to push it down the field — it’s hard to do against our defense but we’re trying to make it happen.”

He also had a message to the rookies on the team about expectations.

“I think it’s to try to be great every single day,” he said. “They have to learn how to work — that’s every class that comes in, every group of rookies — you have to push them to be great. That’s why you see me over there yelling, ‘Finish,’ and you see me talk to those guys after every single play.”

It’s worth noting, again, that the sessions are voluntary and Jackson is not the only Ravens player whose attendance has been scarce. Veteran outside linebacker Kyle Van Noy hasn’t been at any of the four practices open to the media, and veteran wide receiver Nelson Agholor made his first appearance Thursday. Other stars such as running back Derrick Henry, tight end Mark Andrews, safety Kyle Hamilton, cornerback Marlon Humphrey and defensive tackle Justin Madubuike were also absent Thursday.

Save for a few players, though, attendance has been high and the practices have been spirited.

That includes left tackle Ronnie Stanley. Coming off an injury-hampered season and on a restructured contract that includes a pay cut and incentives, the 29-year-old was lauded by Harbaugh on Thursday.

“He’s looked good,” Harbaugh said, adding that the 2019 All-Pro has been at every OTA session. “I’m very pleased. He’s working super hard.”

The two-hour practices have also included several starters matching up against one another. While no live contact is permitted, team and seven-on-seven work is allowed.

“It’s good to work together like that,” Harbaugh said. “We like to have our starters work against our starters a lot in these drills because it’s not full contact and they get a chance to really challenge each other’s technique.”

As for Jackson, following the one open practice he did attend, he did note the importance of his offseason.

Among the topics he addressed were the roughly 10 pounds he shed to be more elusive and faster, being “a lot more comfortable” in the second year of coordinator Todd Monken’s offense and the motivation from last season’s stinging loss to Mahomes and the Chiefs in the AFC championship game.

It should also be noted the Ravens have another OTA on Friday and four more next week, two of which will be open to the media, so perhaps Jackson will be in attendance for those.

“It’s not something I’m really able to comment on,” Harbaugh said when asked if he expected Jackson to be there.

There is no league rule that prevents him from commenting, though coaches essentially aren’t allowed to pressure players to attend voluntary workouts. Harbaugh did, however, provide an update on the continued absence of wide receiver-kick returner and former Archbishop Curley star Deonte Harty, who just welcomed a new baby.

As for the possibility of Jackson appearing at more OTAs?

“We’ll see what happens,” Harbaugh said.

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