Matthew Judon will officially return to the Baltimore Ravens after signing his franchise tag on Thursday. 

The Ravens had placed the franchise tag on Judon in March, and as being tagged as a linebacker, he will make an estimated $16.3million in 2020. 

A fifth-round pick out of Grand Valley State in 2016, Judon has been a key part of Baltimore's defense, racking up 24.5 sacks over the last three NFL seasons.

The 27-year-old earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl in 2019 after starting all 16 games for the first time in his career, while tallying a personal-best 9.5 sacks with four forced fumbles and 33 quarterback hurries.  

Veteran linebacker Pernell McPhee is staying in Baltimore, agreeing to a one-year contract on Tuesday to return to the Ravens. 

A disruptive pass rusher when healthy, McPhee is familiar with the Ravens defensive system and should provide depth to the linebacker corps. 

After starting his career with Baltimore from 2011-14, McPhee returned to the franchise last season following three productive years with the Chicago Bears from 2015-17 and a forgettable 2018 with the Washington Redskins. 

The 31-year-old was enjoying a solid bounce-back season with the Ravens in 2019, tallying 17 tackles and three sacks while starting the first seven games before suffering a season-ending triceps injury. His sack total ranked second on the team at the time of his injury. 

While teams select players in the first round of the NFL Draft hoping they will be game-changers, rosters are built on day two.

The Cincinnati Bengals opened the 2020 draft on Thursday by picking who they hope will be their franchise quarterback for the next decade. They opened round two on Friday by getting Joe Burrow a weapon, drafting Tee Higgins with the 33rd pick.

Twenty picks later came the biggest story of the second round with the Philadelphia Eagles grabbing Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts at number 53.

Hurts led Alabama to back-to-back national championship games as a freshman and sophomore before famously being benched for Tua Tagovailoa, and then led the Sooners to a Big 12 title this past season as a senior while garnering third-team AP All-American honors. He is a dynamic dual-threat quarterback that now joins an Eagles offense that is already led by an established QB in Carson Wentz.

Hurts ended up being the only quarterback selected on day two after both Jacob Eason from Washington and Jake Fromm from Georgia were passed over.

Higgins' selection continued the trend from the first round of wide receivers being gobbled up. After six receivers were drafted in the first round, seven went in the second. The 13 receivers selected in the first two rounds are the most taken through two rounds in draft history, breaking the record of 12 from 2014.

Higgins had 25 touchdown catches over the past two seasons with Clemson, the most by an ACC player in a two-year span since North Carolina State's Torry Holt had 27 from 1997-98.

One pick after Higgins was drafted, the Indianapolis Colts picked USC wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr., who tied for the FBS lead last season with four games of 10 or more receptions.

A run on running backs was expected for day two after only one went in the first round, and it did not take long for the first one to be selected, with the Detroit Lions taking Georgia's D'Andre Swift at number 35.

After playing behind Nick Chubb and Sony Michel as a freshman in 2017, Swift amassed 2,267 rushing yards in his final two years with the Bulldogs. He averaged 6.55 yards per carry in his collegiate career, second best in SEC history behind Bo Jackson's 6.62 (minimum 400 carries).

Six picks later, the Colts continued to build their offense, selecting three-time All-American running back Jonathon Taylor out of Wisconsin. In just three seasons, Taylor rushed for 6,174 yards and his average of 150.6 rushing yards per game are the third most by a major conference player all time, behind O.J. Simpson (164.4) and Herschel Walker (159.4).

Three more backs were selected before the end of the second round with the Los Angeles Rams taking Florida State's Cam Akers at number 52, the Baltimore Ravens drafting J.K. Dobbins from Ohio State at 55 and the Green Bay Packers selecting Boston College's AJ Dillon at 62.

Not technically listed as a running back, though he carried the ball plenty of times at Kentucky, All-American Lynn Bowden was one of the more interesting picks of day two when he was selected with the 80th overall pick by the Las Vegas Raiders. 

The do-it-all playmaker started at receiver and quarterback as a junior in 2019, running the wildcat offense at QB, finishing the season with 1,468 rushing yards and 13 rushing TDs as well as 348 receiving yards. It will be intriguing to see how he will be used in Jon Gruden's offense. 

While the 2020 draft kicked off with Burrow being selected out of LSU, linebacker Jacob Phillips became the 10th player chosen from LSU when he was picked by the Cleveland Browns at number 97. The 10 players out of LSU are the most from one school through three rounds in the history of the draft.

The third round concluded with the Baltimore Ravens selecting guard Tyre Phillips out of Mississippi State. He became the 15th player out of the SEC selected in the third round after 10 SEC players were drafted in the second, a day after a record 15 first-round picks came from the SEC.

The first round of the 2020 NFL Draft returned some normalcy to the sports world, even if commissioner Roger Goodell's basement does not quite exude the same glitz as the Las Vegas Strip. 

With the coronavirus pandemic forcing the draft to be held remotely with NFL general managers, coaches and scouts isolated in their homes instead of inside team complexes, the virtual draft ran smoothly – and without much drama early on Thursday.

In what has been widely expected for weeks, and possibly months, the Cincinnati Bengals selected LSU Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Joe Burrow with the first overall pick.

Burrow led LSU to the national title last season, completing 76.3 percent of his passes for 5,671 yards and an FBS-single season record 60 touchdowns to just six interceptions. 

The second pick also went exactly like how many draft experts had predicted for weeks, with the Washington Redskins drafting Ohio State edge rusher Chase Young. 

Young led the FBS with 16.5 sacks and six forced fumbles in 2019, and was regarded to be the most talented player in the draft class – even ahead of Burrow. 

If not for Burrow's incredible 2019 season and because of Tua Tagovailoa's injury concerns, the latter may have challenged for the top spot in the 2020 draft. 

Tagovailoa became the second quarterback off the board when he was selected by the Miami Dolphins with the fifth pick.

One pick after Tagovailoa, the Los Angeles Chargers took Oregon QB Justin Herbert – just the third time since the 1970 merger three quarterbacks were chosen in the top six picks. 

Three teams that had selected quarterbacks in the first round of the last two drafts, used the 2020 draft to beef up their offensive lines to protect their young, franchise QBs. 

The New York Giants (Daniel Jones at six in 2019) picked Georgia tackle Andrew Thomas at fourth overall, the Cleveland Browns (Baker Mayfield at one in 2018) selected Alabama tackle Jedrick Wills Jr. with the 10th pick, and the New York Jets (Sam Darnold third in 2018) used the next pick to select Louisville tackle Mekhi Becton. 

After this run on tackles, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers took part in the first trade of the draft to insure their new – and aging – quarterback would also stay upright. They moved up one spot in a trade with the San Francisco 49ers to select Iowa tackle Tristan Wirfs at 13 to shore up the offensive line in front of Tom Brady. 

The next trade came 10 picks later as Brady's old team, New England Patriots, dealt pick 23 to the Chargers – who selected Oklahoma linebacker Kenneth Murray. The Patriots received a second and third-round pick from the Chargers and now have five of the first 100 picks of the 2020 draft and 13 overall. 

While it is possible New England could use one of those picks to draft Brady's replacement, the Green Bay Packers have chosen the heir apparent to 36-year-old Aaron Rodgers, trading up from 30th to 26th to select Utah State quarterback Jordan Love. 

The opening round concluded with the defending Super Bowl champions the Kansas City Chiefs selecting the first running back to bookend the first round with LSU picks, taking Clyde Edwards-Helaire – the 14th player drafted out of the SEC. 

Wide receiver is considered to be the deepest position in the draft, and six went in the first round – but none until 12, when Alabama's Henry Ruggs III became the first player ever selected by the Raiders in their new home of Las Vegas. 

While Las Vegas was not able to host the draft festivities this year, Goodell announced that the city has been awarded the 2022 draft, with the commissioner saying, "We think you deserve another shot".

 

First round selections:

1. Joe Burrow (Cincinnati Bengals)
2. Chase Young (Washington Redskins)
3. Jeff Okudah (Detroit Lions)
4. Andrew Thomas (New York Giants)
5. Tua Tagovailoa (Miami Dolphins)
6. Justin Herbert (Los Angeles Chargers)
7. Derrick Brown (Carolina Panthers)
8. Isaiah Simmons (Arizona Cardinals)
9. CJ Henderson (Jacksonville Jaguars)
10. Jedrick Wills Jr. (Cleveland Browns)
11. Mekhi Becton (New York Jets)
12. Henry Ruggs III (Las Vegas Raiders)
13. Tristan Wirfs (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
14. Javon Kinlaw (San Francisco 49ers)
15. Jerry Jeudy (Denver Broncos)
16. A.J. Terrell (Atlanta Falcons)
17. CeeDee Lamb (Dallas Cowboys)
18. Austin Jackson (Miami Dolphins)
19. Damon Arnette (Las Vegas Raiders)
20. K'Lavon Chaisson (Jacksonville Jaguars)
21. Jalen Reagor (Philadelphia Eagles)
22. Justin Jefferson (Minnesota Vikings)
23. Kenneth Murray (Los Angeles Chargers)
24. Cesar Ruiz (New Orleans Saints)
25. Brandon Aiyuk (San Francisco 49ers)
26. Jordan Love (Green Bay Packers)
27. Jordyn Brooks (Seattle Seahawks)
28. Patrick Queen (Baltimore Ravens)
29. Isaiah Wilson (Tennessee Titans)
30. Noah Igbinoghene (Miami Dolphins)
31. Jeff Gladney (Minnesota Vikings)
32. Clyde Edwards-Helaire (Kansas City Chiefs)

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson has put up statistics at every level that pundits have described as 'video game numbers'.

Now he will be the next featured athlete on the most successful football video game of all time.  

The reigning MVP confirmed that his likeness would be on the cover of Madden NFL 21 on Tuesday in a video posted on the team's Twitter feed.  

The venerable video game franchise produced by EA Sports has sold over 130 million copies since its inception in 1988 and trails only the company's FIFA offering as the best-selling sports video game franchise ever.  

Jackson's 2019 MVP campaign and multi-faceted skillset – the kind that translates best to gaming and endears him to younger fans – made him a clear choice to be the series' next cover athlete.  

Legendary announcer John Madden, who the game is named after, was on the cover for its first dozen years, but ever since Tennessee Titans running back Eddie George appeared on Madden NFL 2001, the Madden cover has served as a time capsule of the hottest names in the sport, year-by-year.  

Some fans, however, have come to believe in a 'Madden curse', which dooms the cover athlete to a poor or injury-prone season the year that the game is released.  

Minnesota Vikings quarterback Daunte Culpepper had his passer rating drop nearly 15 points from the previous season while on the cover of Madden NFL 02, and Michael Vick started just four games for the Atlanta Falcons while gracing the cover of Madden NFL 04.  

Donovan McNabb missed seven games in 2005, Shaun Alexander's yards from scrimmage dropped by over 1,000 from 2005 to 2006, and Vince Young managed just nine touchdown passes to 17 interceptions in 2007 – and so the list continues.  

Jackson, however, does not buy into such a superstition, pointing out that the Kansas City Chiefs' Patrick Mahomes was on the cover of Madden 20 after his MVP campaign and went on to win the Super Bowl in February.  

“I'm not worried about a curse,” Jackson said. “Patrick Mahomes was on the front, he won [the Super Bowl] MVP, so I'll want that curse. I hope that's the curse.” 

Jackson, 23, is coming off an unprecedented season in which he passed for 36 touchdowns to just six interceptions and gained a quarterback-record 1,206 yards on the ground with seven rushing touchdowns.  

The Baltimore Ravens and inside linebacker Jake Ryan have agreed to a one-year contract, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported on Saturday.

Ryan's signing is contingent on him passing a physical.  

The move provides veteran depth at the position for the Ravens before heading into Thursday's draft.

A fourth-round pick in 2015 out of the University of Michigan, Ryan started 27 games for the Green Bay Packers in his first three seasons before missing all of 2018 with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.

He signed a one-year deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2019 but played just two games due to a hamstring ailment that landed him on injured reserve for a second straight season.

The 28-year-old Ryan has 206 total tackles in 45 career games with one sack and two fumble recoveries.

Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh is worried the impending digitisation of the NFL – powered by lockdowns and shelter-in-place orders due to the coronavirus pandemic – leaves sensitive team information vulnerable to online theft.

With team activities postponed indefinitely due to public health concerns, teams are likely to conduct season preparations through videoconferencing applications, possibly even transferring playbooks online.

Harbaugh spoke about the issue during a pre-draft news conference, saying that he has already reached out to the team's information technology department about securing communications.

"It's a big concern," Harbaugh said. "Hopefully we'll be okay. I really wouldn't want the opposing coaches to have our playbook or our draft meetings. That would be preferable, if we can stay away from that."

Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta, however, joked that executive vice president Ozzie Newsome had a better chance of leaving the team's draft board vulnerable in his car than a hacker would have of stealing a digital copy.

The league announced on Monday that team facilities would remain closed indefinitely, with teams' offseason workout programs normally scheduled for this month. Coaches and front offices now face the challenge of preparing for the 2020 season from home.

On the six occasions Bill Belichick has lifted a Lombardi Trophy over the past two decades, Cleveland Browns fans are reminded of what might have been.

Twenty-five years ago, Belichick was the head coach of the Cleveland Browns, a team considered one of the Super Bowl favourites having gone 11-5 and won a playoff game in 1994.

Then, at 4-5 in early November, Browns owner Art Modell announced he was moving the team to Baltimore the following year. The wheels came off, the Browns finished 5-11 and Belichick was fired.

The Browns' players and staff went to Baltimore, where they had success with the Ravens, while Belichick rebounded in style with the New England Patriots.

Cleveland had another franchise four years later, the Browns inheriting the team's history and getting the new stadium Modell had sought, but the 'new' Browns have been something of a laughingstock.

So what if the 'original' Browns had remained in Cleveland and Belichick had stayed in charge? The NFL world would sure look an awful lot different.

 

BELICHICK WOULD HAVE BUILT A RAY LEWIS-LED CLEVELAND DYNASTY

Belichick's coaching record speaks for itself. Had he stayed in Cleveland, he would have been a success.

The Browns had a playoff roster already and their staff from that 1995 season included a raft of future head coaches and general managers - Belichick, Ozzie Newsome, Scott Pioli, Jim Schwartz, Eric Mangini, Mike Tannenbaum and Thomas Dimitroff. There was simply too much brainpower for that organisation not to have become a serial winner.

Then there were the first two draft picks that Newsome and the Ravens inherited from the Browns and spent on offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden and linebacker Ray Lewis - two future Hall of Famers.

Forget New England, Cleveland would have been the NFL's powerhouse in the 2000s.

BALTIMORE'S RAVENS WOULD HAVE BATTLED MEDICORITY

Baltimore won a Super Bowl in just their fifth year and had sustained success thanks to Newsome's brilliance and Lewis' tone-setting displays on defense.

Even if the city, once home to the Colts, had been awarded an expansion franchise in 1999, they would have struggled as almost all expansion franchises do.

Between them the Jacksonville Jaguars, Carolina Panthers and Houston Texans - the NFL's three most recent expansion franchises, have yet to win a Super Bowl. And the Browns were effectively a franchise expansion when they returned in 1999, too.

Take out Newsome and Lewis - the foundations on which Baltimore's success has been built - and any team would have toiled.

 

TOM BRADY GETS LOST IN THE MIX

Belichick certainly owes a debt of gratitude to Tom Brady, the unheralded sixth-round draft pick in 2000 who turned into the NFL's greatest quarterback of all time with the Patriots.

Brady's determination means his talent was always likely to shine through and he would surely have got his shot.

However, without Belichick's brilliant defensive gameplan to thwart the 'Greatest Show on Turf' for Brady's first ring in his second season, where would 'Tom Terrific' be?

Belichick's defense played a huge role in at least half of Brady's Super Bowl wins. Maybe Brady had a successful career without Belichick. But the GOAT? Don't bank on it.

 

CLEVELAND, NOT BOSTON, COULD HAVE BEEN THE CITY OF CHAMPIONS

Since 1995, Boston's sports teams have combined to win 12 major titles in the NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL. In Cleveland, where there is admittedly no NHL team, the Cavaliers' 2016 NBA Finals triumph stands alone.

In the mid-90s the Cavs were playoff regulars, while the Indians went to two World Series only to narrowly lose in 1995 and 1997, perhaps burdened by the weight of expectation in a city starved of sporting success for so long.

Had the Belichick-led Browns lifted multiple Lombardis like the Patriots, that winning feeling might have rubbed off on the city's other franchises, as it seemed to do in Boston. 

March 28 was the day when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer went from the interim manager to Manchester United's permanent boss.

It was also the date that the Colts upped sticks and made the stunning move from Baltimore to relocate to Indianapolis.

March 28 remains a day of one of cricket's most significant milestones as well.

We take a closer look at what happened on this day in sports.

 

1955 - New Zealand all out for 26

The lowest Test score in history - recorded by the home side in Auckland - may never be broken.

New Zealand, who, at that point had not won a match in the longest format in the 24 years since they were granted Test status, were skittled out inside 27 overs against England.

Four batsmen were dismissed without scoring, another three having made only a single.

New Zealand's innings lasted just one hour, 40 minutes and they fell to an innnings-and-20-run loss to the tourists.

1984 - The Colts head to Indy

It is one of the most famous, and shocking, stories in NFL history.

Fifteen trucks turned up at the Baltimore Colts' Owing Mills facility under the cover of darkness, packed up the team's belongings and headed for Indianapolis.

Baltimore city officials had already passed legislation that would allow them to seize control of the Colts but, once the trucks left the state of Maryland, that did not matter.

The Colts remain Indianapolis' team today while Baltimore had to wait until 1996 before being awarded another NFL franchise - the Ravens.

2019 - Solskjaer appointed on a permanent basis

Exactly one year ago, United responded to their first back-to-back losses under interim boss Solskjaer by making the Norwegian's arrangement permanent and handing him a three-year contract.

United had previously won their first eight games in a row under Solskjaer and beat Paris Saint-Germain in France in March to advance in the Champions League.

"This is the job that I always dreamed of doing and I'm beyond excited to have the chance to lead the club long term," Solskjaer said of his appointment.

Michael Brockers has returned to the Los Angeles Rams after his proposed move to the Baltimore Ravens broke down over a contract dispute.

The defensive lineman’s agent Scott Casterline confirmed to NFL Media that a deal had been done with the Rams.

Brockers has reportedly agreed a three-year pact with a maximum value of around $31.5million, similar to what he would have got with the Ravens.

The 29-year-old was poised to join the Ravens in free agency until a high ankle sprain suffered against the Arizona Cardinals in the last game of the 2019 season was flagged up in a medical report.

The two parties could not agree on a reworked contract, and the Ravens officially announced on Friday they would not proceed with the deal, which had only been agreed "in principle" but was "yet to be finalised".

"Because of the COVID-19 epidemic and restricted travel, teams have had trouble finalising deals with a medical examination by their own doctors," read the Ravens' statement.

That led to Brockers promptly returning to the Rams, a development welcomed by his colleague Aaron Donald on social media.

Brockers was selected by the Rams in the first round of the 2012 draft and has spent his whole NFL career with the franchise. He was part of the team that reached Super Bowl LIII.

The Baltimore Ravens have placed the franchise tag on pass rusher Matthew Judon.

Judon was due to enter free agency at the start of the new NFL year next week.

Baltimore's decision comes after outside linebacker Judon led the Ravens with 9.5 sacks in 2019.

He earned a Pro Bowl nod for his performances last season, which ended in disappointment for Baltimore as they finished a league-best 14-2 before losing to the Tennessee Titans in the playoffs.

A fifth-round pick in 2016, Judon has 28.5 sacks in four seasons with the Ravens.

Should he play under the tag, Judon would be set to receive around $16million for the 2020 campaign. The Ravens, having avoided losing him for nothing, could yet choose to trade him instead.

Baltimore Ravens guard Marshal Yanda has retired from the NFL after 13 seasons.

An eight-time Pro Bowler and two-time first-team All-Pro, Yanda is considered one of the greatest guards of all time.

Yanda, a third-round pick in 2007, won Super Bowl XLVII with the Ravens at the end of the 2012 season, making him only the third guard to earn at least eight Pro Bowl nods and win the Lombardi Trophy.

In his final year in the league, Yanda helped pave the way for an MVP season for Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson as Baltimore finished a league-best 14-2.

He was unable to go out with a second Super Bowl ring, however, as the Ravens lost to the Tennessee Titans in the Divisional Round of the playoffs.

The 35-year-old's decision leaves a gaping hole on the interior of Baltimore's offensive line.

Last year's fourth-round pick Ben Powers is the in-house candidate to replace Yanda. The Ravens hold the 28th pick in the first round of this year's draft.

The future is certainly bright for the Kansas City Chiefs after they were crowned Super Bowl LIV champions on Sunday.

A 31-20 victory over the San Francisco 49ers at Miami's Hard Rock Stadium earned veteran Andy Reid his first ring as head coach, while quarterback Patrick Mahomes became the youngest player to be named both MVP - an honour he won a year ago - and Super Bowl MVP in NFL history.

With Mahomes just 24, the Chiefs will have aspirations of dominating for the foreseeable future and replicating the two dynasties the New England Patriots and Tom Brady enjoyed with six Lombardi Trophies across two decades.

However, winning back-to-back Super Bowls is no mean feat - no team has done it since the Patriots 16 years ago - so we take a look at which teams could prevent Kansas City from winning it all again in Tampa Bay next February.

BALTIMORE RAVENS

The best team in the NFL's regular season fell at the first hurdle in the playoffs as the 14-2 Ravens were upset at home by the Tennessee Titans.

That was a deflating note to end on for quarterback Lamar Jackson, who was voted the NFL's MVP by unanimous vote 24 hours before Mahomes won his first ring.

Jackson is just 23, most of the Ravens' star players are expected to return and coordinators Greg Roman and Wink Martindale will likely be back alongside Coach of the Year John Harbaugh.

If Jackson is able to replicate or even exceed what he did in his first full year as the starter, the Ravens might be bound for Tampa next year.

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

Long live the kings? Don't count on it.

The 2019 season felt like the end of an era as Father Time looked he had finally caught up with 42-year-old quarterback Brady.

Yet those who have written off New England in the past have often ended up looking incredibly foolish.

The Patriots have 19 straight winning seasons, the best head coach in the game in Bill Belichick and had the NFL's number one defense in 2019. Brady's future remains uncertain but one final push for a Lombardi is certainly not beyond the realms of possibility.

 

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

The nearly men of the past three seasons; Saints fans have been crushed by a trio of playoff defeats featuring walk-off plays.

New Orleans will believe they will be playing January football again after three straight seasons with double-digit wins.

Sean Payton remains one of the preeminent offensive minds, Michael Thomas broke the single-season record for receptions in 2019 and an underrated defense complements a free-scoring offense.

At 41, Drew Brees' career is coming to an end, but, presuming he decides to return next season, the Saints will surely be contending again.

 

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

The Steelers only went 8-8 in 2019 but San Francisco's transformation from 4-12 to 13-3 and a Super Bowl berth is evidence of how the NFL can quickly turn on its head.

What should give Steelers fans cause for optimism is that they won eight games without their starting quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger.

Roethlisberger was still playing at an elite level prior to his 2019 season-ending injury, leading the league in passing yardage with a career high 5,129 yards in 2018.

Combine that with an impressive young defense and a head coach tried and tested in the postseason and you have the recipe for another Super Bowl run.

ARIZONA CARDINALS

A left-field suggestion, sure, but look at the significant strides both Mahomes and Jackson took in their second years in the league.

Offensive Rookie of the Year Kyler Murray believes he can make a similar leap in 2020 and, if he can, look out.

Arizona's offense under rookie head coach Kliff Kingsbury hummed at times in going 5-10-1 in 2019 and the addition of more weapons in free agency would significantly aid Murray's development.

Their biggest problem, beyond fixing a porous defense, is finding a way to come out on top in a division that contains the NFC's last two Super Bowl representatives - the 49ers and Los Angeles Rams - as well as postseason regulars the Seattle Seahawks.

Lamar Jackson joined Tom Brady in becoming a unanimous NFL MVP on Saturday, but the Baltimore Ravens quarterback now wants to emulate his success in Super Bowls too.

Jackson was confirmed as the MVP of the 2019 NFL season in Miami having starred for the 14-2 Ravens in his first full year as the starter.

As well as breaking Michael Vick's single-season rushing record for a quarterback, Jackson also led the league in passing touchdowns with 36 scores and delivered a series of astounding plays with both his legs and arm.

That earned him all 50 first-place votes for the MVP award, making him only the second winner by unanimous vote after New England Patriots great Brady in 2010.

However, collectively Jackson's season ended in disappointment as the Ravens lost a Divisional Round clash to the Tennessee Titans, and it is Super Bowl rings – of which Brady has six – that the newly crowned MVP wants now.

Informed that he was only the second unanimous MVP winner, Jackson replied: "I'm trying to chase Brady.

"I'm not worried about any other quarterback because he's got six Super Bowls.

"I've got to get my first one and then it's on."

Reaching the pinnacle of a sport is usually a time for reflection, yet Jackson, who turned 23 last month, highlighted how he is still at the start of his NFL journey.

"I'm still young, I've got a lot of work to do," he added.

"I'm not really trying to dwell on what I just did. [If] I win a Super Bowl, you'll probably see a lot more emotion.

"I'm good with what I've got now. I'm satisfied."

The Ravens coaching staff reaped the rewards of altering their offense to suit Jackson's unique skillset.

Their 14-2 record also earned John Harbaugh the NFL Coach of the Year award, not that he wanted to take any credit for Jackson's MVP campaign.

Instead he lauded Felicia Jones, Jackson's mother, for fighting her son's corner when others said the athletically gifted player should switch position to running back or wide receiver.

"You know who deserves the credit for Lamar? Lamar. The good lord who gave him the talent and his mum," Harbaugh added.

"I think his mum is the hero in this whole thing. His mum had his back the whole way. We raise our kids, and you want to see them do well and fight for them a little bit.

"All the way, because of the circumstances and situations of football, he wasn't supposed to be a quarterback. And his mum made sure he was a quarterback and here he is, playing at the highest level, differently."

Lamar Jackson was drained.

On January, 6, 2019, in his first NFL playoff game, the Baltimore Ravens rookie quarterback had been restricted to under 200 yards passing by the Los Angeles Chargers, he was sacked seven times and the offense he led failed to score a touchdown until midway through the fourth quarter, at which point the game was gone.

Boos from his own fans ringing in his ears; critics questioning whether he could make it as an NFL quarterback.

He told his personal quarterback coach Josh Harris he needed some time off before they reconvened for their offseason work.

When they did, two weeks after the New England Patriots won Super Bowl LIII, the aim was to get back to basics.

"This is going to be a very slow offseason and it's going to be boring," Harris told Jackson.

Sometimes they would spend an hour mimicking the basic action of the throwing motion. Some days that was all they did.

Other days Harris would swing a broom at Jackson's legs, abdomen and head to replicate the pressure he feels in the pocket.

"He hates the broom drill," Harris told Omnisport.

"I always do this after he frustrates me to scare him. 'If you don't listen to me, I will hit you with this broom!'"

The mantra all offseason was "finding your rhythm" and Harris preached it for four days a week. It was supposed to be five but Jackson "always found a way to get out of Fridays".

On September 8, 2019, in his first NFL game of the season, Jackson got the chance to put the lessons he had learned with Harris just 26 miles away into practice.

He threw for 324 yards, torched the Miami Dolphins in their own stadium with five touchdown passes and had a perfect passer rating. It was the start of a campaign that would end with the MVP award, given to him in the same city on Saturday night.

--

Harris has known Jackson since his college days at Louisville. Jackson's mother, Felicia Jones, and his youth football coach, Van Warren, believed Harris could take the quarterback's game on. They were right, he won the Heisman Trophy later that year.

"He never acted like a person that was this gifted at football," Harris said.

"He's very teachable. He's a perfectionist, he gets frustrated when things aren't going well."

And if Harris wants the perfect rep out of Jackson, he knows just which buttons to push.

On his iPhone Notes app are a series of criticisms pundits have levelled at Jackson. Comments from the people who didn't think he could throw. Those who, like former Buffalo Bills, Carolina Panthers and Indianapolis Colts general manager, Bill Polian, thought he should change position.

"You can see when you give him a criticism, it turns into fuel," Harris explained.

"I've had other players, they wither under it. It motivates him, he's seen that [criticism] every step of the way."

-- 

The critics did not think Jackson, unquestionably an elite talent with his legs, would ever be able to lead the NFL in touchdown passes - as he did in 2019 with 36 scores.

So when Harris was designing Jackson's unique pro day before the 2018 NFL Draft, the aim was to prove to those in attendance that he could win from the pocket. Jackson took every snap from under centre and threw to multiple receivers instead of just one.

Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin was there and so was Baltimore's quarterback coach James Urban, who impressed Harris by showing a keen interest in his drills.

When it came to draft night, Harris wore a purple tie, hoping it would prove a lucky omen and that his pupil would be selected by the Ravens.

One by one the players on the tables next to Jackson that night in Texas were drafted. Saquon Barkley to the New York Giants. Josh Rosen to the Arizona Cardinals. Jaire Alexander, Jackson's college team-mate, to the Green Bay Packers.

Soon only one pick remained in the first round. Amputee linebacker Shaquem Griffin was in the green room, though he was never going to be selected that high, as were running back Derrius Guice, and Jackson, whose entourage had flights booked back for the following morning thinking he would be chosen in the first round.

All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey had stuck around too, an interested observer in Jackson's fate.

When Guice's phone rang with the Philadelphia Eagles on the clock, Harris figured he knew what that meant. But there was another call coming into that room, to Jackson's phone.

"Everybody's in a daze," Harris said.

"He's just sitting there. I slapped him, 'Man, pick up the phone!'"

It was the Baltimore Ravens. They had traded up to select Jackson with the final pick of the first round, a move that would look incredibly shrewd less than two years later when he led them to an NFL-best 14-2 record.

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Harris was a little worried as Jackson continued to compile an MVP-calibre campaign. The sensational 47-yard touchdown run against the Cincinnati Bengals. The ludicrous touchdown pass to Mark Andrews when off-balance in Cleveland. The accumulation of yards on the ground (1,206) that would see him break Michael Vick's single-season record for most among quarterbacks.

"He's the media darling now," Harris thought.

Where then was he going to find the criticism to fuel Jackson?

Then came the shock 28-12 Divisional Round playoff loss to the Tennessee Titans, which happened despite Jackson producing over 500 yards of total offense.

Not only did the Titans' defensive scheme give Harris and Jackson something to mull over this offseason, it also provided the coach with some new entries for his iPhone Notes.

"They're saying you're 0-2 in playoff games," Harris intends to tell Jackson when they next meet.

"They were even critiquing your precision passing in the Pro Bowl skills challenge. 

"I know it's silly but cool, I can use it."

Jackson will trot back out onto the practice field in Pompano Beach in two weeks' time as the freshly crowned MVP - the best player in the entire NFL.

But Harris will be ready, with his iPhone Notes, and his broom.

"I already know how to motivate him," Harris concludes.

"I've got a couple of bullets in the chamber for the MVP!"

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