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Can Ravens let Jackson 'just be Lamar' over OTA absence?

Lamar Jackson
Joe Glorioso | All-Pro Reels
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Joe Glorioso | All-Pro Reels
Lamar Jackson

If you’ve been in a relationship with a person long enough, whether it be romantic, familial, friendly or in a workplace setting, you can usually pick up on verbal cues that tell you when things aren’t so hunky-dory.

Now, I ain’t no psychiatrist and I ain’t no doctor with a degree. But it doesn’t take Dr. Phil to recognize that the Ravens and Lamar Jackson have issues. The team’s new president Sashi Brown says the fact that Jackson didn’t attend the recent voluntary offseason workouts, known unofficially as OTAs, isn’t that big a deal.

And, in the few words that Jackson has uttered publicly over the last few months, he, too, has issued the “everything’s good here, nothing to see” declaration. After NBC Sports analyst Chris Simms chided Jackson for failing to show up for OTAs for the first time in his career, the former league Most Valuable Player tweeted that quote Lamar just wants to be Lamar” unquote. The tweet added quote I will be there, just not on your time unquote.

OK.

In a literal sense, both the Ravens and Jackson are right. The OTAs are, indeed, voluntary. Jackson is under no contractual obligation to attend the workouts. He doesn’t have to do anything for the team until a mandatory minicamp in a couple of weeks where he is expected to show up.

And as Simms’s colleague Peter King recently suggested, the stir being caused by Jackson’s coquette-like behavior may be a consequence of the absence of what used to be an offseason.

With no games to watch, we’re left to speculate in the morass left by the endless news cycle.

And no sport feeds off the dearth of real news more than pro football, where the Super Bowl bleeds into the combine which bleeds into the draft which bleeds into OTAs and then training camp.

Before you know it, a new football season has kicked off before you’ve had a chance to breathe from the old one.

So, Jackson’s OTA disappearance could be much ado about nothing. Or it could be a harbinger of something larger, a sign, in the words of the old Chi-Lites song, troubles are coming.

Start with the idea that Jackson is entering the final year of his rookie contract. Given his previous MVP status and the unicorn nature of his game, where he is as adept as a runner as a passer, Jackson is primed to make big money.

And, by all accounts, the Ravens want to give him big bank. But it takes two to negotiate and Jackson, whose mother serves as his representative, has not come to the table.

Under the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement, the team can essentially hold on to Jackson for 2022 and two more years on its terms, but would likely prefer not to. Only Jackson, who missed the final four games of the 2021 season with a bone bruise of his right ankle, knows what he wants and all he seems willing to say these days is things are fine.

The Ravens and their fans are left to hope that, in this case, fine isn’t a four-letter word that masks a deeper problem.

And that’s how I see it for this week. You can reach us via email with your questions or comments at Sports at Large at gmail.com. And follow me on Twitter at Sports at Large.

Until next week, for all of us here, I’m Milton Kent. Thanks for listening and enjoy the games

Milton Kent hosted the weekly commentary Sports at Large from its creation in 2002 to its finale in July 2013. He has written about sports locally and nationally since 1988, covering the Baltimore Orioles, University of Maryland men's basketball, women's basketball and football, the Washington Wizards, the NBA, men's and women's college basketball and sports media for the Baltimore Sun and AOL Fanhouse. He has covered the World Series, the American and National League Championship Series, the NFL playoffs, the NBA Finals and 17 NCAA men's and women's Final Fours. He currently teaches journalism at Morgan State University.