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John Harbaugh guarantees Baltimore Ravens will pick up Lamar Jackson’s fifth-year option

For those who had any doubts, Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh stated Tuesday that the team will pick up quarterback Lamar Jackson’s fifth-year option before Monday’s deadline.

“Guarantee it,” Harbaugh said on “The Rich Eisen Show.”

Jackson will make a guaranteed $23.1 million in 2022, a significant raise from his $1.7 million salary this season. This will be the highest fifth-year option in the league next season, tying Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen.

By exercising Jackson’s option, the Ravens will squash the speculation that the team will let Jackson to “graduate” after four seasons.

An NFL Network analyst recently suggested the Ravens could trade up to draft a quarterback this week and move on from Jackson before his heightened salary-cap hit limited Baltimore’s spending.

Harbaugh made it clear that won’t be the case. “He’s definitely going to be our quarterback,” Harbaugh said. “That’s the plan, absolutely.”

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Jackson, 24, has won more games (30) than any other NFL quarterback since taking over as Baltimore’s starter midway through the 2018 season and became the second unanimous league MVP in 2019.

He’s the first player in NFL history to produce 5,000 yards passing and 2,500 yards rushing in his first three campaigns.

Harbaugh pointed out how the Ravens have scored more points than any other team in Jackson’s two full seasons as a starting quarterback.

“I feel like it all points to one thing and the thing he talks about all the time: He wants to win a Super Bowl,” Harbaugh said.

“I think he’s a very unique guy. He’s a guy that’s different in a lot of ways than any quarterback that’s ever played. Lamar is somebody that just kind of breaks the mold a little bit. He does it in a way that a lot of people didn’t anticipate. They didn’t see this coming. He’s very determined — and we’re very determined — to prove those people wrong.”

In March, Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta stated the team is “confident and committed” to getting a long-term deal done with Jackson.

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New York Jets DT Quinnen Williams’ breakout season ends with injury

New York Jets defensive tackle Quinnen Williams, who has established himself as one of the NFL’s top young linemen, is done for the season with a concussion and a neck injury.

Williams, 23, was placed on injured reserve Wednesday after clearing the league’s concussion protocol.

The concussion happened late in the third quarter of last Sunday’s stunning upset of the Los Angeles Rams, which likely cost the Jets the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft.

Williams, caught on camera as he walked to the locker room for an evaluation, was seen vomiting on the sideline. Williams, drafted third overall in 2019, was one of the few bright spots this campaign for the Jets (1-13).

After a lackluster rookie year, he became a disruptive presence on the defensive line. He leads the team in sacks (seven) and quarterback hits (14) and ranks among the league leaders in the major run-stopping metrics, according to NFL Next Gen Stats.

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“On Sunday, you saw what kind of impact he had — a ton of TFLs [tackles for loss], was in their backfield and created pressure,” Gase stated.

Gase said Williams “kind of disappeared” in some games, “but it didn’t happen a lot this year.

Last year, I felt like there would be a couple of games in a row where you didn’t really feel him. But this year, I felt like the high majority of the game you felt him. If you were on the other team, you felt him whether you were playing quarterback or in the running game.”

Without Williams, the Jets’ run defense will be vulnerable Sunday versus the Cleveland Browns (10-4), whose third-ranked rushing attack is led by Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt.

The Jets also placed inside linebacker Harvey Langi (neck) on IR. Between injuries, in-season trades and one opt-out, the Jets are down seven defensive starters from the unit that was projected at the start of training camp.

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NHL teams clear to reopen facilities Monday in Phase 2 of return to play plan

The National Hockey League is transitioning to Phase 2 of its return-to-play plan, as teams will be allowed to reopen training facilities in their cities on Monday if local regulations allow it.

On a “strictly voluntary basis,” players can participate in small-group team training, with a maximum of six players at one time plus a limited number of staff members in the facility. This training will include small group sessions for on-ice workouts for players only, with no coaches or other team personnel allowed on the ice. Players must wear face coverings at all times in the facility, except when exercising or on the ice.

Many NHL players haven’t skated since the league paused its regular campaign on March 12 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The NHL said teams can immediately start preparation for the players’ return, including the planning of medical tests and education sessions about new safety protocols.

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In late May, the NHL circulated a document to teams detailing how training facilities should reopen to maximize player health and safety. Everyone involved in Phase 2 will be administered a laboratory-based reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test 48 hours before they can participate.

If local testing capacity allows, everyone participating in Phase 2 will be tested “at least twice weekly” afterward, according to the NHL. Players will check their temperatures daily and will have their temperatures checked before entering the facilities. They’ll also keep a log of temperatures and any symptoms that could signal a COVID-19 infection.

The return to training facilities is a major step toward the opening of NHL training camps in July, ahead of what the league hopes is a return to conclude the season at two hub cities in a previously announced postseason format.

The NHLPA voted to approve that format, but has yet to vote on an actual return to the ice. The NHLPA will receive feedback from players during this return to training facilities. The feedback will help with negotiations about training camp regulations and issues regarding what life could be like in those hub cities.

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NFL to release regular-season schedule Thursday

The NFL will release its regular-season schedule on Thursday night, the league reported Monday, as it continues conducting business mostly as usual amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The schedule will be disclosed in a three-hour telecast on NFL Network starting at 8 p.m.

Thus far, the league has not announced any major updates to its schedule as a result of the pandemic, which has brought most organized sports around the globe to a halt. NFL training facilities are closed because of the pandemic, leading to the league’s first-ever “virtual offseason,” but the league still plans to start the campaign on time while playing in teams’ home stadiums.

Opening day for the 2020 season is Sept. 10, with the season set to finish with Super Bowl 55 on February 7, 2021. The NFL also held last month’s draft on time while canceling all in-person events. The draft had been set for Las Vegas; instead, Commissioner Roger Goodell announced picks from his home.

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Should the pandemic force major changes to the season, the league is considering alternatives including empty stadiums, neutral sites and getting rid of bye weeks, league executive Troy Vincent told The Associated Press last week. Any such changes would have to be approved by the players union.

Earlier Monday, the NFL announced it was moving its five matches scheduled for London and Mexico City this season back to U.S. stadiums.

The league has evaluated contingency plans should the pandemic intensify, working in conjunction with the NFL Players Association and medical experts on a set of protocols.

The league is evaluating when players can re enter team facilities. The NFL and NFLPA have agreed to keep buildings closed until every state in which a team resides lifts its stay-at-home mandate. Teams are conducting organized team activities virtually.

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NBA discusses delaying start of 2020-21 season until December

NBA commissioner Adam Silver and team owners examined delaying the start of next season until December due to complications with the COVID-19 pandemic, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski — an idea that is reportedly gaining traction among owners.

The coronavirus pandemic forced the NBA to suspend operations on March 11. The league presently doesn’t have any specific plans to resume play. 

The NBA officially postponed both the draft lottery and scouting combine on Friday, both of which were scheduled to take place this month in Chicago. It did not delay the draft itself — which is currently scheduled for June 25 — however “there’s an increasing belief that it’s just a matter of time” before that happens, per Wojnarowski. 

There were more than 1.1 million confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the United States as of Friday afternoon, according to The New York Times, and more than 64,500 deaths attributed to the virus.

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Most sports leagues in the country, including the NBA, have considered playing matches without fans present upon return.

The idea behind delaying the start of next season, per Wojnarowski, is to allow fans to be present for as much of the season as possible. 

“If you start in December, that doesn’t mean the [fans] are coming back in December, but maybe they’re back in March,” one owner told ESPN. 

While talks occurred on Friday, there are “no imminent plans” to make any decisions about next season now. Before that plan is made, the league will almost certainly need to determine how it will move forward with the rest of the current season. 

Atlanta Hawks CEO Steve Koonin said in March that he believes beginning the season in mid-December rather than in mid-October would eliminate competition with most other professional sports leagues. Instead of competing with the NFL and college football for the first few months of the season, the NBA would be able to dominate the winter and summer — where Major League Baseball and the PGA Tour are, for the most part, alone in the sports world. 

Doing so would push the NBA Finals to August, which would allow the season to conclude just before football begins again each fall.

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