Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson has special leadership qualities that will benefit the team and city, according to legendary former Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, who adds that Jackson has to do a better job of avoiding contact in an effort to stay on the field long term.
Jackson took over for an injured Joe Flacco (hip) in Week 10 last year and kept the starting job once Flacco was cleared to play. Jackson, whom the Ravens traded back into the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft to take No. 32 overall, helped lead the Ravens to a 6-1 record to close out the regular season and the AFC North title.
Flacco was traded to the Denver Broncos for a fourth-round pick in February, the deal was made official the following month and the Ravens opened offseason workouts with Jackson as the unquestioned starter. The Ravens will enter the 2019 season with an offense centered around Jackson, an electric athlete who paved the way for a highly productive running game during the second half of 2018.
Lewis is excited about the intangibles Jackson brings, too.
"I think that's where Baltimore is transitioning to: to follow this young man's lead of just positivity and energy," Lewis said on
Glenn Clark Radio
Aug. 16. "He just has energy. He just loves the game of football. That's why he loves contact, because he loves the game of football. But his energy is what he's going to be able to distribute across the board to the team, to the city. I really adore him. I think he's amazing, and I think he's going to be one heck of a leader for Baltimore in the future to come."
After the 2012 season, Lewis retired as a two-time Super Bowl champion and eventual first-ballot Pro Football Hall of Famer. In the six seasons after Lewis' retirement, the Ravens struggled to find a consistent identity and missed the playoffs four times. Now the team is clearly Jackson's, a responsibility Lewis held throughout the course of his 17-year career and one he believes Jackson is prepared to handle for the team and city.
"I always say it's only a burden if you lead people down the wrong path," Lewis said. "If you lead them down the right path, it's a blessing."
Lewis does believe, however, that Jackson must do a better job of protecting himself against contact. Jackson set a new single-season record for rushing attempts by a quarterback (147) last year, though most came within the structure of the Ravens' offense. As such, the 6-foot-2, 212-pound Jackson absorbed plenty of hits, some of which likely could have been avoided if Jackson sought out the sideline or slid more.
Lewis pointed to Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson as an example of a passer who uses his mobility to his advantage without taking any big hits. Wilson, a five-time Pro Bowler, has not missed a start throughout his seven-year career.
"This is me, and I've told [Jackson] this a thousand times: he has to be smart enough to understand nobody should touch you," Lewis said. "Yeah, you have a running ability. Yeah, you have a very unique ability, but a lot of running quarterbacks that had that same ability, it didn't end well. So you have to play a smart game. Russell Wilson plays a very smart game. Russell ain't taking hits or going through those things. Russell is very calculated when he gets out of the [pocket]."
On Aug. 17, Lewis will be in town hosting the Ray Lewis No Excuses Boot Camp Challenge, which will take place at City Garage (101 W. Dickman Street in Baltimore). Check-in begins at 7 a.m., and the camp runs until 5 p.m. The camp aims to give campers the tools to build a healthier, wealthier lifestyle, according to Lewis.
The camp includes two boot camp sessions with Lewis and his longtime trainer, Monte Sanders, and a yoga session. Campers will also learn about how to invest their money -- Lewis said he partnered with investment bank Morgan Stanley to provide a long-term financial "game plan" -- and how to build a better diet.
It's a day in which Lewis strives to touch on ... just about everything.
"That's why I love putting these types of programs together because it teaches everybody that, 'I'm not telling you to be Ray Lewis. I'm telling you to come be a better you,'" Lewis said. "And that's the key to No Excuses. You have to identify, the moment you walk through that door, that I will live a better life starting today. I will understand my finances. I will understand my wealth plan. I will understand my spirituality. I will understand what my physical ability is supposed to be."
Tickets to the
No Excuses Boot Camp Challenge
can be bought here.
To hear more from Lewis, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Sabina Moran/PressBox