OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Lamar Jackson has a simple explanation for why he decided to participate in voluntary practices for the Baltimore Ravens this year.
“New offense,” he said. “Had to get that down pat before the season rolls in. Because the season's getting nearer, even though we got a couple months left. But still, just wanted to learn the new offense and get with my guys.”
The Ravens are going through something of a honeymoon phase after reaching a $260 million, five-year deal with Jackson late last month. His presence on the practice field Wednesday was another positive sign. Jackson skipped this part of Baltimore's offseason work last year, although he attended the mandatory camps.
His earlier arrival this year comes as the Ravens prepare for the season under new offensive coordinator Todd Monken. Jackson is hopeful Baltimore will be able to create big plays in the passing game and rely less on the run — including his own running.
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“Just being able to throw the ball down the field," he said. "Running can only take you so far, and I feel like with this new era of teams and offenses in the league, I feel like we need that. Coach Todd Monken, what I'm seeing in this offense so far is looking tremendous.”
Jackson said Monken's offense seems more up-tempo. The Ravens put up impressive time of possession numbers in recent seasons, and that has its own benefits, but with a quarterback like Jackson, they could probably do more to put pressure on defenses.
Those in coaching diversity program relish exposure
EAGAN, Minn. — Matt Daniels acknowledged feeling “just a tad bit” of butterflies when he sat down earlier this week for speed-dating-style meetings with NFL owners and executives as part of the league's strategy for developing more diversity in the coaching ranks.
With just one season on his resume as Minnesota Vikings special teams coordinator, the 33-year-old Daniels could have been forgiven if he were daunted by the pressure of selling himself to these decision-makers in 30-minute time slots.
But all Daniels had to do was be his usual engaging and energetic self.
“What you realize is these billionaires and these high-influence major powers, they’re just normal people who enjoy and love football,” Daniels said.
The relative lack of minority-race coaches in prominent leadership roles, starting with the big stage of being a head coach, has been a long-running problem for the league and thus a more recent priority to address. Filling the pipelines with more diverse candidates has been one of the goals, including the creation of “accelerator” programs for front office and coaching jobs.
At the spring league meetings in Minnesota this week, a pool of 40 coaches participated in the latest edition. Sixteen of them took part in the inaugural event a year ago, after which eight coaches and three executives were hired in new roles, including Tennessee Titans general manager Ran Carthon.
Bills' Miller not concerned with Diggs' absence
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Von Miller isn’t the least bit concerned about Buffalo Bills teammate Stefon Diggs missing voluntary spring practices. Nor is the veteran pass rusher reading anything into the cryptic messages the receiver posted on his social media accounts this offseason.
Miller is far too familiar with Diggs’ competitive drive, commitment to football and close relationship with quarterback Josh Allen in being able to confidently say he’ll be back in Buffalo when the time is necessary.
“He’s not here right now, but I don’t think it should ever be a question is football No. 1 on his mind,” Miller said, noting he anticipates Diggs to be present for Buffalo’s three mandatory practices scheduled to open in three weeks.
“He’s going to show that he’s a better version of Stefon Diggs on and off the football field. And for me and my point of view as a teammate ... those are really the things that matter to me,” he added. “Is he going to be better than last year? Is he going to compete? Does he still love the game? And all of those boxes are checked.”
Lance happy with 49ers
SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Trey Lance has no desire for a fresh start even though his path to becoming the franchise quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers has many roadblocks.
After the Niners traded three first-round picks to draft him third overall in 2021, Lance has started only four games after serving as a backup for most of his rookie season and being injured most of last year.
Now he heads into his third season behind the former Mr. Irrelevant Brock Purdy, who went from being the last pick of the 2022 draft to the presumed starter in San Francisco as long as he recovers from offseason elbow surgery.
PACKERS: Jonathan Owens is showing he can tackle major life changes as adroitly as he brings down opposing ball carriers. The 27-year-old safety had little time to celebrate his destination wedding to Olympic gold-medal-winning gymnast Simone Biles before beginning the next chapter of his NFL career with the Green Bay Packers.
JETS: The New York Jets hosted punter Matt Araiza for a workout at the team’s facility six days after a San Diego State investigation found no wrongdoing by him in an alleged gang rape at an off-campus party in October 2021. Joe Linta, Araiza’s agent, confirmed the punter’s visit with the Jets during an interview on WFAN Sports Radio in New York. ESPN first reported what is believed to be Araiza’s first workout for an NFL team since he was released by Buffalo last August.