QB Lamar Jackson opening statement:
“Before I open it up to you guys for questions, I just want to say my heart is with Mo [Gaba’s] parents, friends and family, because he was a great kid. He really wasn’t able to express his ability to show the world what he was made of, and I just want to say [that] my heart goes to him. He was a great soul. Now I can answer your questions.”
Your offseason was sort of crazy. You ran into a jet ski, threw passes to WR Antonio Brown, wore a mask and social distanced. How would you describe this offseason for yourself?
“I still have my mask. I did not run into a jet ski; I jumped over the jet ski [and] fell in the water. It was nice throwing to Antonio Brown. I was hoping we would get him – still hoping, a little bit. It has been going pretty well. I wish I was with my guys earlier in OTAs around April, like usual, but COVID-19 had a better idea, I guess.”
I just want to ask you a little bit more about Mo Gaba. You did have a chance to get to know him a little bit. What are your thoughts about the courage that he showed throughout his horrible situation? He was such a young man – teenager – of joy. Did you take that from him? Did you feel that from him?
“Yes, every time he would be out there at the practice facility, you can just feel it. Whenever you go by him, you just shake his hand; you hear him talking and stuff. I wish he was able to express things more, [and] was able to see all the stuff that was going on [and] all the love he got around him. I’m just sad. His life got cut short. He was only 14.”
People talk about the leap from the second to the third year. It’s amazing that we’re even talking about you into your third year in the NFL. What kind of leap can the reigning NFL MVP make? What can you add to your repertoire?
“Hard work and dedication. I’m going to keep working hard. My second year is done with. It’s over with. I need to focus on this season. Last year is in the past. It fell short. It didn’t end how I wanted it to end, but I’m focused on this season, and I just need to do better. There’s always room for improvement, and I just need to keep grinding. I’m working on everything: passing, running ability, everything. I feel like the sky is the limit for not just me, but the team – the whole organization.”
QB Patrick Mahomes said going from Year Two to Year Three, that’s where he made the biggest jump in reading defenses. Has that been a focus for you, and how have you approached that part of the game?
“Definitely, and not just reading defenses. Like I said, just the whole ability to pass the ball [and] run the ball. You always need to make yourself better, because the teams you’re playing against, they are trying to stop you and make you look like you’re not that guy [or] what people may portray you as. So, my job is to learn more; get my mental state-of-mind right [and] where it’s supposed to be at and get the mental part down-pat. We’re going to go from there. [We’ll] see how the season goes.”
You had the opportunity to work out with WR Marquise Brown this offseason. He has certainly bulked up, and he really put the work in. What do you see as far as your chemistry with him this season, and what strides he can make this year entering his second year?
“I feel like he is going to have a huge jump – more than people may think. He was hurt last year. People didn’t know that. But he went out there and battled his tail off each and every game on a messed-up foot. And now his full potential is going to show this year, I feel. He’s still young, but he is going to show off. And my job is to get the ball out quicker, because he’s a lot faster with that foot at 100 percent.”
How do you feel things have gone in terms of the protocol, and how aware and more aware are you in terms of who you surround yourself with once you leave the facility and protecting yourself?
“I’m not really with anyone outside of my guys here. I feel like I’ve done a pretty good job so far, because all the tests came back negative. I didn’t have any Coronavirus – not one tick in me. I think I’ve done a great job of quarantining. I’m going to keep it that way. I’m the new ‘Bubble Boy,’ so that’s what it is.”
How much more difficult does it make it though, with all the protocols in place? We all know with training camp, there is so much learning, and there is so much communication. It’s the beginning of a season and everybody is back together. How much more difficult does this make it during this training camp?
“The organization here in Baltimore, we do a great job with Zoom calls, talking to our coaches on there, going over plays and having great meeting times, and stuff like that. Coach Harbaugh does a great job at making sure that everything is copacetic for us. It’s going well. We have hand sanitizer everywhere. We are doing our thing here. I still have my mask. We’re doing good here.” (laughter)
What do you think about not playing the preseason this year?
“I’m cool with it. Our guys will be going into the regular season safely. No little nick-ups, injuries or anything like that will occur from preseason games. I’m cool with it. We just won’t be getting hit or anything like that until the regular season, so [we] just have to prepare well for that.”
I think you’ve even recognized this as much and – whether it’s fair or unfair – you know what people are going to be talking about heading into this year about playoffs and all that. How do you prepare for that kind of scrutiny and the expectations you are going to get as the reigning MVP?
“I just need to go out there and do my job; go out there and win games and make it to the playoffs. But our job is to focus on the Cleveland Browns right now. I can’t really dwell on the playoffs, because those games, that was my rookie season, [and] people didn’t even expect us to go to the playoffs at all. And last year, none of us expected to lose. They came out; they played well. We didn’t. But now, we just have to focus on the Cleveland Browns. When we get back to the playoffs, we [will] go from there.”
We haven’t had a chance to talk to you since you had some of your teammates down in Florida a couple months ago. How did that come together? How did that go, and is that something you imagine might be a yearly thing for you guys?
“We were not expecting COVID-19 to happen, but when people were able to still fly into Florida, I was down there [and] found a park and ‘Hollywood’ [WR Marquise Brown] – a little, regular park. We just went out there, and we just got our grind on. We just had to build some type of chemistry before we go to training camp. We were not expecting it to still be no fans [allowed] in our facility. But we just wanted to go out there and get chemistry, because we didn’t want to go to camp and be embarrassing ourselves, so we just got some work in. It wasn’t how I wanted it, because we weren’t able to do it as much as possible, because Florida was getting shut down and stuff like that. We just got in what we [could]. Guys looked pretty good out there.”
You’ve been in the league long enough to know how defenses adjust. What is the biggest defensive adjustment you expect to face this year after everybody saw what you did last year?
“I can’t call it. I just need to do a better job at making myself better [and] making our team better. I can’t really focus on another team. But when we go out there, we are going to find out.”
You already had to answer to the jet-ski jump, but tell us about the aftermath of posting the video of your flop on Instagram. I saw in the comments that you said it was an old video, but I’m sure that a bunch of fans missed that. Who was making your phone ring?
“No one called me about it, but I just saw comments. I felt it was funny, because when my slide came off, I didn’t want my foot to hit the grass. I just took a shower, so I was running to the car, and I messed around and jumped [over the bush]. When I jumped over the bush, I landed. I was safe. And I did not want to – like I said – touch the grass, so I just had to turn around. It looked awkward, but I was good. I’m good. I’m walking around [and] running well, so I’m good.” (laughter)
You talked about WR Marquise Brown. If I could go way back to when you guys played Pop Warner ball, did you know who he was even back then? What’s your relationship been with [him] all the way through? I know when he came out of Oklahoma, you talked about, ‘We’re going to go get you,’ and so forth. What’s your relationship been with him throughout this whole thing?
“It’s been good. That’s my brother, we’re good. We’re from the same place and area down there in South Florida. But in youth football, we didn’t really know each other, because we were in two different cities. I’m in Pompano Beach, he was in Hollywood, so it was different. But as we got older and we started hearing about each other and stuff like that … In South Florida, when you’re good, you’re going to know about someone, and that’s what it was. When he was at Oklahoma, I was at Louisville [and] I ended up leaving early. I’m watching him a lot – I’m like, man, we need to get someone like him on our team. His speed is crazy. He’s got that Florida speed in him, and people are mistaking him like … He’s very twitchy. That guy is fast, and that’s what it is. That’s my brother.”
We also haven’t gotten a chance to talk to you since [Chiefs] QB Patrick Mahomes signed his record-breaking contract. What was your reaction to that? What do you think that can mean for you maybe when it’s your time in a year?
“My reaction – I’ve just got to win a Super Bowl. I don’t really focus on what he has going on, because I’ve still got to prove myself. When that time comes, then we can negotiate after the Super Bowl. But until then, I’m focused on winning right now.”
You mentioned at the beginning of the press conference that you would love to have [free agent] WR Antonio Brown in Baltimore. Why do you think he would be a good fit inside that locker room and in the offense, especially, unfortunately, since he’s had some off-field issues that have been pretty public?
“I just feel he’s a great … Well, around us, he was a great guy. You don’t really see anything going on, at all. He’s a cool, down-to-earth guy and he’s passionate about the sport of football. When he was working, you could tell, this man, he’s going to go 24/7. And after the workout, he still went and lifted. He already – prior to the workout, he lifted. We go out there and go to throwing routes, after that, guys went and lifted some more. I’m like, ‘Man, this guy, there’s no quitting with him.’ That’s the type of guy we need in our locker room. And I feel like the locker room here is different from any other locker room. It’s like a brotherhood going on. It’s none of that outside noise; it’s strictly inside. We worry about each other; we worry about what we have going on. We want to win, and I can just tell in him that he wants to win. He wants to play ball.”
How much tape have you been able to see of WR Devin Duvernay and WR James Proche? What do you think they bring to you?
“I’ve watched a few highlights when we drafted them. Those guys are – I feel like they’re it. Devin [Duvernay] is fast, he’s a fast guy. James Proche – his route-running and his hands are different. I just can’t wait to see them when we got the pads on.”
You talked about WR Antonio Brown. Were you debriefed by the coaching staff? Did they want to know, since you saw him up close, what you saw and your thoughts?
“Yes, they’ve seen the videos and stuff like that, too, and they asked me, and I told them the same response I just told you guys.”
Last year, at this time, we were talking so much about the new offense, [offensive coordinator] Greg Roman, the revolution. How much more will it take now, knowing that we’re dealing with social distancing and the pandemic that, one, Greg Roman is still your offensive coordinator, and that you’re not having to do what you did last year this year, with all the circumstances?
“I love it. It’s going to make my job a lot easier. Now, I just have to perfect my craft. Just work on getting my chemistry down with my guys, and just keep working – to get better and be a better quarterback as I was last year, and the year prior to that.”
You talked previously about you maybe not running as often as you had last year. Is that something you’re kind of thinking about going into this season, maybe not trying to run as often? Or is it just you’re going to let it happen as it happens?
“I’m going into this year just thinking about winning. I don’t really put my mind on, ‘Oh, well I have to run a lot,’ or this and that. Like I said in the previous interview, we’ve got great running backs: we’ve got Mark Ingram II, we’ve got Gus Edwards, we’ve got Justice Hill, we’ve got J.K. Dobbins. I feel like we’re going to be pretty good with the rushing part. But if I have to, if the play breaks down and no one is open, then I’ll do my thing. But other than that, we’re pretty good.”
How much are you looking forward to getting together with the guys? I know they’re making their way in and they have to pass everything. But just being as a group, all together, it hasn’t been since January or February?
“I can’t wait. There are a couple of guys here. It’s just us QBs, a few other guys, defensive guys. But other than that, I just can’t wait until the whole unit is here, because it’s time to grind. We’ve been on break for a long time. I wouldn’t say break, but you can say a break, because we weren’t having that chemistry like we would have in OTAs and stuff like that coming up to training camp. I just can’t wait until everyone gets back so we can get to grinding.”
I think in early June, there were the Black Lives Matter videos from NFL stars. One of the reports said that you were pretty close to participating in them yourself. How did that almost come together? For you, just how important is that message going to be this year?
“It’s very important, because I feel like we should be protected by the police instead of being scared of them. When things happen, we should be able to call on those guys and feel safe, and not be feeling like we’ll get harmed, and we’re the ones calling them. I’ve been retweeting a lot of stuff, but COVID-19, I couldn’t really go out and march and participate in the events, because I just had to stay away. I didn’t want to get sick, or anything like that, affecting my family.”
We’re all kind of paying attention to baseball right now with the [Miami] Marlins. Baseball is kind of built for social distancing, really, if you look at all the sports. How confident are you that we’re going to be able to get into and through a football season with this pandemic?
“I can’t call it. I feel – here, I just know about what we have going on in this building. We’re doing a pretty good job. We’ve got our tickers [tracking monitors] on. We’re making sure we’re all staying six feet apart from each other. We’ve got our hand sanitizer, like I said before. We’ve got our masks on throughout the building, and no one has, that I know of, had COVID-19. I feel like we’ve been doing a pretty good job. I can’t speak for everyone else. I hope we can finish the season though.”
Last offseason, your personal quarterbacks coach Joshua Harris talked a lot about working and widening your base and some of the mechanics, being consistent. You always say you work on everything. But this offseason, was there something you harped on in particular in terms of mechanics or certain throws, or anything like that?
“Down-the-field passes, outbreaking routes – I just feel we need to make a lot of plays. You’re in the league and it’s rare you’re going to see people catching deep passes in the NFL. When you have those opportunities, you’ve got to make the best of them, and that’s what I’ve been working on.”
How was the experience of meeting all the rookies?
“It was pretty cool. The guys, they’re working. They like to work; they like to learn, I see. I just can’t wait to see them, like I said before, in these pads, and see what everyone is made of.”
I know you said your reaction to the QB Patrick Mahomes deal was that you have to go out and win a Super Bowl, but when you see a quarterback get a half-a-billion dollars, do you start thinking of contract? Does that ever cross your mind at all?
“No. But like I said, when the time comes, then, yes. But right now, I’ve got to focus on winning. I can’t put that on my mind. You’ve got to win first. If you’re not winning, then you won’t be worried about no $500 million dollars either.”