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Lamar Jackson responds to criticism over absence at voluntary OTAs, says he will join Ravens eventually

Lamar Jackson is not at Baltimore's organized team activities -- at least not yet.

That has some folks all worked up. How could a franchise quarterback not be at OTAs with his teammates?!

Entering a contract year, Jackson has chosen to begin OTAs by continuing his training on his own, and he's far from alone to do so in the history of the NFL. He's also heard enough of the criticism pertaining to his decision, responding Friday with a declaration he will attend the Ravens' offseason program at some point.

Jackson, of course, has proven his worthiness with his in-season performance, winning NFL MVP honors in 2019, earning two trips to the Pro Bowl and leading Baltimore to three playoff appearances in four seasons. He's become the focal point around which Baltimore has built its offense, and a healthy return will bring a fresh set of expectations for the Ravens in 2022.

More importantly, an unsettled contract situation also carries some concern. Jackson has yet to engage the Ravens in meaningful discussions on an extension, likely contributing to his decision to delay his arrival for Baltimore's voluntary portion of its offseason activities.

This lack of discussion should be more worrisome than Jackson not being in attendance in late May. As tight end Mark Andrews said earlier this week, the Ravens "know how hard he's working." But without the security of an extension, the Ravens can't yet confidently believe they'll have Jackson for the long run, even if a life without the star QB isn't fathomable at this point.

As a professional athlete, Jackson is expected to prepared physically and mentally for the upcoming season. And as he tweeted Friday, he's preparing accordingly -- it's just not happening in Owings Mills, Maryland.

At least not yet.

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