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NFL executive criticizes John Harbaugh for public handling of Lamar Jackson injury

Jim Harbaugh, Lamar Jackson
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson as the face of a franchise and a player the organization was prepared to make one of the highest-paid players in NFL history. As the 2023 offseason begins, there are increasing doubts he’ll play another snap in a Ravens’ uniform.

Jackson suffered a PCL injury in Week 13. At the time, head coach John Harbaugh initially expressed uncertainty regarding the Pro Bowl quarterback’s status for Week 14. Days later, it was revealed Jackson would miss approximately three weeks.

Related: Evaluating Lamar Jackson trade landing spots

The 2019 NFL MVP never played another snap in the Ravens’ season. Jackson’s teammates made it clear they never expected him to play, with the 26-year-old limping around the practice facility. However, when faced with questions regarding Jackson’s status before the Wild Card Round and inquiries about its potential connection to Jackson’s contract, Harbaugh rarely provided clarity.

It fueled speculation that Jackson was sitting out because he was on an expiring contract, choosing to preserve his health over playing through the injury in a postseason game. When Jackson provided his own injury update, revealing he is still dealing with inflammation and he has a high Grade 2 PCL sprain, Harbaugh again refused to provide any clarity and said he didn’t pay attention to Jackson’s tweets.

Related: NFL insider believes Lamar Jackson could be traded in 2023

Amid growing uncertainty regarding Jackson’s future in Baltimore, NFL executives who spoke to Mike Sando of The Athletic believe Harbaugh’s style is part of the Ravens’ problem.

“Harbaugh is a power coach. It’s like it is 1983 and you’re going to get the kid to come back by saying he is an important part of the team and it’s not a serious injury, but that doesn’t work in today’s NFL. He tries to make it coy and tricky, but he wants to exercise power over players, just like the college coaches he comes from and admires.”

Anonymous NFL executive on John Harbaugh’s handling of players, Lamar Jackson

As Sando notes, Harbaugh clashed with Ed Reed during the 2012 season. The Hall of Fame safety voiced his displeasure over practices being too intense, a sentiment shared by several of his teammates. It caused friction with Harbaugh and Baltimore didn’t re-sign Reed the next offseason.

Harbaugh’s approach was contrasted with Andy Reid and other NFL coaches who many believe would have offered far more support for their franchise quarterback. Instead, the Ravens’ coach is sticking with his old-school approach that doesn’t reflect the modern NFL coaching style.

“Yeah, he is letting Lamar twist in the wind.”

NFL executive on John Harbaugh’s approach with Lamar Jackson

Amid the criticisms of Harbaugh’s approach and the rumors about the Ravens potentially trading their star quarterback, Jackson’s recent Instagram posted comes into play. On Monday, the 6-foot-2 passer shared a quote about how people treat others can have consequences.

“When you have something good, you don’t play with it. You don’t take chances losing it. You don’t neglect it. When you have something good, you pour into it. You appreciate it. Because when you take care of something good, that good thing takes care of you”.

FOX Sports analyst Sean Payton recently shared that he believes Jackson won’t be playing for the Ravens in 2023. Given Payton has a close relationship with Harbaugh, it’s possible that belief turns into reality.