Watson: 'Very cool' to be in next generation of QBs

Sunday's marquee matchup kicks off at 1 p.m. ET in Baltimore, when Lamar Jackson's Ravens host Deshaun Watson's Texans.

The two dynamic quarterbacks will take the field to jolting anticipation. Two MVP candidates. Masters of the inconceivable. Artists who take your breath away each time they touch pigskin. Powers so seemingly magical they could levitate over the sod, and it might not be their most ridiculous trick of the day.

The back-and-forth could be legendary, but there is no animosity among the QBs.

"I'm a proud quarterback, proud friend," Watson said Wednesday when asked about Jackson. "All the criticism he was getting when he was coming out, he's definitely a guy that I've always encouraged and talked to in the offseason. I've always been -- since college days, when we played against each other, I've always been friends with him. He's a guy that's been doing everything that all the naysayers have said he couldn't do, and even more. His career is very, very bright and he's going to continue to do great things."

Watson and Jackson played one of the most ridiculous, entertaining games in college football history in 2016, with Lamar's Louisville squad coming up just shy against Watson's Clemson gang. (The Athletic's Aaron Riess provides a great retrospective if you'd like to dive more into that epic tilt.)

Sunday's showdown could provide a glimpse into the future. Football's next great QB rivalry. Watson, Jackson and Patrick Mahomes battling for supremacy in the AFC for the next decade? Yes, please.

"It's good to have the generation that's behind legendary Hall-of-Fame quarterbacks like Tom (Brady), (Drew) Brees, Aaron (Rodgers), Ben (Roethlisberger), (Philip) Rivers, all of those guys," Watson said, via the team's official transcript. "Who knows how long they're going to continue to play and continue to be around. So, you want that next generation to continue to have this league, and have the NFL, very exciting and have a lot of good teams and a lot of points being scored. It's encouraging. It's very cool to be a part of that."

It's not lost on Watson that many of the most exciting QBs in today's NFL -- himself, Mahomes, Jackson, Russell Wilson, Dak Prescott, Kyler Murray -- are African American. A position that was mostly closed to African Americans in the past is offering more opportunities, and it's changing the context of QB play in the league.

"It's good. Definitely not the norm, I guess you can say," Watson said. "It's awesome to be a part of it and be one of those guys. It's something that we take pride in and continue to change that narrative and just continue to do it the right way. It really doesn't matter what race you are, what color you are. If you can go play football, you can play football. If you're smart, you're smart, and if you have the right coaching you can go out there and perform, especially playing quarterback. Not something I get caught up into, but it's definitely that's the elephant in the room, pretty much."

As for his battle with Jackson on Sunday, Watson isn't concentrating on his fellow QB. He's got too much to worry about in the Ravens defense.

"I don't focus on their offensive side," he said. "I focus on my job and making sure I'm ready, making sure the guys around me ready to play and execute at a high level. I can't control what they're doing on their side or what Lamar has going on. I can't get caught up in all that. I just focus on my job and playing 60 minutes."

Sixty minutes of back-and-forth play from Watson and Jackson could be a feast for the viewing audience Sunday afternoon.

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