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As Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson returns to training, ankle injury hangs over pivotal week – The Denver Post

Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson made his long-awaited return to training on Wednesday, but a spiked right ankle could prevent him from joining a reinforced lineup for Sunday’s crucial game against the Los Angeles Rams.

Jackson, absent since the Ravens’ Week 14 loss to the Cleveland Browns, was limited to the 20 minutes of practice open to reporters on Wednesday. He limped slightly as he ran from court to court, and he tended not to kick his injured back foot away when throwing the ball through passing drills.

Coach John Harbaugh said he was “really hopeful” Jackson would start on Sunday, but admitted he had hoped the 2019 NFL MVP returns to action last week. Jackson hasn’t played since Dec. 12, when he was taken off the field after Browns rookie inside linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah tackled him from behind.

The Ravens have lost four straight games for the first time since 2016, and a loss on Sunday would virtually knock them out of the playoffs before their regular-season final against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Jackson, who was not made available to reporters on Wednesday, has qualified for the playoffs in each of his first three years in Baltimore.

“I really want to see him there on Sunday,” Harbaugh said. “I know the fans are doing it. I know, above all, that Lamar knows it. So he’s going to do all he can to be there, and you can’t make a promise, because we don’t know. We don’t know what tomorrow will bring.

Jackson’s return on Wednesday overshadowed the arrival of more reinforcements, including the activation of outside linebackers Justin Houston and Tyus Bowser off the reserve / COVID-19 list. Houston missed the Ravens’ resounding loss to the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, while Bowser returned just a day after being designated.

Three key reserve and special team contributors – inside linebackers Chris Board and Kristian Welch and security Geno Stone – have also been activated off the reserve / COVID-19 list. Earlier in the week, the Ravens picked up cornerbacks Chris Westry and Jimmy Smith and outside linebacker Pernell McPhee, all of whom trained on Wednesday.

But no player’s status this week will be watched as closely as Jackson’s. Selected to the Pro Bowl for the second time in three years as a full-time starter, Jackson struggled through the second half of the season. He’s 1-3 in his last four starts, passing 673 yards, three touchdowns and six interceptions in that streak.

The Rams won’t do anything easy. Led by star tackle Aaron Donald (12 sacks) up front and cornerback Jalen Ramsey (three interceptions, 14 assists defended) in back, the Rams have the sixth most effective defense in the NFL, according to Football Outsiders, with a top 10 assist. -stopping and stopping units. Two years after Jackson and the Ravens destroyed the Rams in Los Angeles, 45-6, they will likely enter Sunday’s game as an underdog for the fourth game in a row.

“We’re fighters here,” tight end Mark Andrews said. “We will always fight. There will never be any surrender in us. Whatever the game, whatever the score, we’re going to keep coming, we’re going to keep going, and that’s what we are. And obviously, get # 8 [Jackson] the back is special, because he’s a special player, and I think we’re all excited about that.

If Jackson is limited or ineffective on Sunday, the Ravens should have his backup more than capable. Harbaugh said he expects Tyler Huntley, who missed the Ravens’ loss to Cincinnati after being placed on the reserve / COVID-19 roster on Saturday, to join the team on Thursday. The sophomore quarterback has impressed in five appearances and two starts this season, throwing for 743 yards, three touchdowns and one interception and posting an 88.9 passer rating while rushing for 168 yards and two scores.

With Jackson and Huntley sidelined on Sunday, the Ravens turned to third-string mate Josh Johnson, who finished 28 for 40 for 304 yards, two touchdowns and one interception in his first start since 2018. But l he offense lacked the big-game spark that Jackson offers as both a field pitcher and an open court runner.

“Lamar is a great competitor,” said center Bradley Bozeman. “He’s a great playmaker. He does the things he needs to do to be the best at what he does. But at the end of the day, if Lamar isn’t ready to play, he’s not ready to play. It’s up to them to decide – it’s up to the training team and the coach to decide. ”

As Jackson’s right ankle improves, so does the health of the team around him. Right tackle Patrick Mekari (hand), tight end Nick Boyle (knee) and defensive lineman Calais Campbell, all of whom were limited last week, were full participants in Wednesday’s practice. Harbaugh also indicated that defensive lineman Justin Madubuike and tight end Josh Oliver, as well as Huntley, could be activated off the reserve / COVID-19 roster ahead of Sunday’s game.

Even though starting cornerback Anthony Averett (ribs / chest) isn’t available this weekend, the Ravens could have their strongest game day roster since Jackson was injured – and just in time, too.

“It’s going to be nice to have more guys there than the last two weeks,” said security Chuck Clark. “It’s going to be nice, for sure, to have our ‘dogs’. I was just coming out of the locker room coming down here now and hearing guys screaming, and that’s a little bit of the energy that we’ve been lacking in the last couple of weeks, with different personalities, different energy, and different minds. So just hearing that, I feel like we’re going to be excited, ready to go this week.

Week 17

RAMS @ RAVENS

Sunday, 1 p.m.

TV: Ch. 45 Radio: 97.9 FM, 1090 AM

Line: Rams by 3 ½

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