Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson has contracted COVID twice in the last eight months — once last Thanksgiving, when he tested positive and missed a game against the Steelers which the Ravens lost, 19-14, and once just recently, which caused him to miss 10 days of preseason practice.
Despite this, Jackson is uncertain about the possibility of getting vaccinated against the virus.
“I just got off the COVID list,” Jackson said after Monday’s practice. “I got to talk to my team about this and see how they feel about it. Keep learning as much as I can about it. We’ll go from there.”
When asked if he was thinking about vaccinations at this point?
“We’ll see,” Jackson said. “Talking to the doctors. We’ll see.
“I feel it’s a personal decision. I’m just going to keep my feelings to my family and myself. I’m focused on getting better right now. I can’t dwell on that right now… how everybody else feels. Just trying to get back to the right routine.”
Jackson wasn’t happy to be infected again, as you might expect.
“What the… again?” he said, when asked his reaction. “It was crazy. I was heartbroken. I wasn’t looking forward to that at all. Right before camp… not again, not right now.”
The 24-year-old Jackson also said that he is not worried about any long-term effects from the virus.
“I thought he looked really good,” head coach John Harbaugh said of Jackson after Saturday’s practice, which Jackson participated in after he was taken off the Reserve/COVID list. “I would say he looked even better than I expected him to. Coming off 10 days away and hadn’t started yet, COVID[-19] is tough. He had symptoms. He had a lot of symptoms. So, I think it speaks to how well he took care of himself during that time. He came out and practiced well. So, [it’s a] good first step. We have, for the whole team, four to five weeks of work to get ready for the first real game. So, we’ll just try to take it one day at a time.”
While studies show that those who have contracted COVID have lasting immunity thereafter, the results are inconclusive — especially with new and different strains of the virus impacting the population. Not that Jackson needs to know that after two instances in which he contracted it.
And it’s not that Jackson is the only Ravens player who is resistant to doing anything beyond following the league’s protocols.
“I don’t know, man. I don’t really want to talk about that [stuff], to be honest,” defensive lineman Derek Wolfe said Saturday. “We can’t do anything about it. The higher-ups and the white hats are going to do what they want. I guess us sheep just have to follow. So, we’re just going to do what we do. I’m just here to play football.”
In June, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a study which showed that the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines authorized by the Food and Drug Administration (Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna) reduce the risk of infection by 91 percent for fully vaccinated people. In addition, the study showed that those who were fully vaccinated and still contracted COVID were far less likely to experience extreme symptoms.
That’s the scientific perspective, which not everyone appreciates. Thus, Wolfe’s “sheep” comment, which is fairly common these days among the unvaccinated. Perhaps the competitive perspective would hit home more forcefully. In 2020, the Ravens lost both of their games to the AFC North-winning Steelers, and they lost their game without Jackson by five points. Would Jackson have been worth one more touchdown than the quarterback combination of Robert Griffin III and Trace McSorley? One would imagine, especially in a game where Ben Roethlisberger was short-arming just about everything, completing 36 of 51 passes for 266 yards (5.22 yards per attempt), one touchdown, and one interception.
This after a week in which the NFL kept having to move that game due to the fact that, at one point, the Ravens had 18 players on the Reserve/COVID list. Then, the team had just two quarterbacks, six offensive linemen, and three defensive linemen on its active and practice squad rosters.
As the regular season begins, and the NFL has created more forceful provisions regarding the possibility of forfeits for teams that are gravely COVID-affected, we’ll see if key players who are on the fence about vaccinations suddenly go “all-in.” Based on the data, whatever reason it takes, it’s a good thing.