It’s been quite a couple of weeks for Lamar Jackson.
He tested positive for COVID-19 again, missing the beginning of training camp. While he was away, Buffalo’s Josh Allen — another quarterback from Jackson’s draft class — signed a big extension, raising more questions about how Jackson’s negotiations are going with the Ravens.
Now Jackson is practicing again, trying to make up for lost time while adjusting to some important new teammates.
Jackson spoke to the media Monday for the first time since returning from the COVID-19 list. He began practicing Saturday. Jackson's positive COVID-19 test came right before the start of training camp. He also tested positive last season and missed a game.
“Just like last time probably — fatigued, if anything. I was sleeping a lot," Jackson said. “But I’m glad to be back.”
Although Jackson was in good spirits Monday, he said the positive test was tough to take, especially given the timing.
“It was crazy. I was heartbroken, because I wasn't looking forward to that at all — right before camp,” he said. "It was like, not again, not right now. But it's over with."
When asked if the Ravens have talked to him about getting vaccinated, he sounded noncommittal.
“I just got off the COVID list, so I've got to talk to my team doctors and try to see how they feel about it," he said. "Keep learning as much as I can about it, and we'll go from there.”
Jackson said he tried to stay sharp by throwing in his backyard — his cousins served as receivers. Baltimore plays its first exhibition game Saturday night against New Orleans. The preseason games may not be all that significant for a player of Jackson's stature, but he could use time on the field.
Baltimore added receiver Sammy Watkins in the offseason and drafted receiver Rashod Bateman, part of an effort to improve what was the lowest passing output in the league a season ago.
As for Allen’s contract, Jackson wasn’t saying much about how that might affect his negotiations.
“That’s good for him, but like I said, I’m not worried about that,” Jackson said.
Texans QB Watson returns to practice
Deshaun Watson returned to practice with the Houston Texans after not taking part in workouts for almost a week.
Watson reported to camp on time and was on the field for the team’s first five days of practice, participating in individual drills only. When the players wore pads for the first time this season last Tuesday, he did not participate and was not on the field.
He continued to be absent from practice until Monday when he trotted onto the field with the rest of the team. He only worked during individual drills and went into the indoor practice facility after the first five periods of work. He returned to the field near the end of the two-hour practice and watched as his teammates went through 11-on-11 work.
Coach David Culley refused to say why Watson stopped practicing with the team last week, and he wasn’t available to answer questions regarding his return Monday because he spoke before practice.
Watson’s future is uncertain after he asked for a trade in January before 22 women filed lawsuits alleging that he sexually assaulted or harassed them in March. Houston police and the NFL are investigating the allegations, but no charges have been filed.
Watson still wishes to be traded and reported to training camp solely to avoid being fined. He would have faced fines of $50,000 a day if he didn’t report.
Watson signed a four-year, $156 million contract extension with the Texans last offseason and led the NFL in yards passing last season. But he became unhappy with the direction of the team and requested a trade in January after the Texans, who won the AFC South in 2018 and ‘19, sank to 4-12 last season.
WR Thomas’s relationship with Saints appears to sour
The New Orleans Saints already knew that they would almost certainly begin the season without wide receiver Michael Thomas, one of the sport’s best who had surgery to repair a lingering ankle injury in June. But now it appears the team’s relationship with its best offensive player has taken a sour turn after Thomas sent out a cryptic tweet about his reputation.
“They tried to damage your reputation,” he wrote. “You saved theirs by not telling your side of the story.”
While the specific impetus for Thomas’s tweet is unclear, he sent it out two days after NOLA.com sports columnist Jeff Duncan wrote an article in which he blamed Thomas for the unfortunate timing of his surgery after talking with multiple unnamed people familiar with his situation.
Duncan said the Saints’ medical staff wanted Thomas to have surgery to repair ligament damage in his ankle joint immediately after last season, in which Thomas played only seven games in the regular season and two in the postseason. Thomas, however, sought a second opinion (as is common), and the second doctor “suggested a conservative approach that would allow the injury to heal on its own through rehab and therapy,” Duncan wrote.
Thomas chose that second option and the Saints supported his decision, but problems began to arise in the offseason when Thomas did not respond to requests from coaches and the team’s medical staff for updates on his recovery in California, his offseason home. And when the two-time first-team all-pro returned to the team in June for minicamp, the Saints discovered that his ankle had not healed and that surgery was required, meaning 10-12 weeks of rehabilitation.
“Whether Thomas was being obstinate, negligent or both is irrelevant,” Duncan wrote. “One Saints source said Thomas simply thought his ankle was doing fine and that he was on track in his recovery. Regardless, his decision to ghost his superiors was inexplicable and unacceptable. Quite frankly, he’s fortunate the team didn’t fine him for insubordination.”
Saints Coach Sean Payton stopped short of assigning blame for the terrible timing of Thomas’s surgery when asked about it in late July, but he also didn’t seem all that thrilled about it.
“It appears we’re going to have to spend some time without him. It’s disappointing,” Payton told reporters at the start of training camp. “We would have liked that to have happened earlier than later, and quite honestly, it should have. . . . I’m going to leave it at that.”
On Monday, Payton declined to comment when asked about Thomas’s tweet.
“I don’t want to have a press conference based on social media,” he told reporters.
RB Barkley practices with Giants
While he isn’t in football shape and is unlikely to play in a game anytime soon, star running back Saquon Barkley is back practicing with the Giants. The Giants activated Barkley from the physically unable to perform list and had him participate in some light drills as the team opened its third week of training camp. The move came roughly 10½ months after Barkley tore the ACL in his right knee in the second game of last season …The Atlanta Falcons signed running back D’Onta Foreman, adding depth behind new starter Mike Davis.