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Jackson ready for his chance

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Jackson ready for his chance

The beginning of his NFL career hasn't exactly gone as Asa Jackson would have liked.

Drafted in the fifth round by the Ravens this past spring out of Cal Poly as a cornerback and return specialist, Jackson has yet to see the field in a regular-season game. Buried on the depth chart, he has been declared a game-day inactive in all six games thus far.

That could change, though, after the season-ending knee injury to cornerback Lardarius Webb.

With Webb down, Jimmy Smith will slide into a starting role opposite Cary Williams. The first nickel back now is expected to be Corey Graham, with Chykie Brown and Jackson both sliding up the depth chart as well.

"Obviously, I don't know anything about what my role is going to be," Jackson said on Wednesday. "This is why they put me in the position that I've been in this whole time. In case something like this happens, then it's my turn to step up. This week I'm going to show (the coaches), give 'em some confidence in me so hopefully on Sunday I'll be able to do something good in the game."

Jackson showed glimpses of his potential in the preseason, including some heavy hits and a highlight-reel 85-yard punt return touchdown against the Lions, though it was called back by a penalty.

But his NFL career to date has been "frustrating;" each game so far, he's been one of the seven players on the 53-man roster dressed in sweats, rendered inactive for the game.

"Shoot, up to this point, or up to the point I'm at, being a rookie coming in," he said, "everyone was 'the man' where they were coming from."

Indeed, Jackson set school records for interception return touchdowns (3), punt return average for a career (14.7) and was a four-time, first-team all-conference player at Cal-Poly.

"Going from like me being a big fish in a little pond, or being that dude at Cal-Poly, to coming here and just being a scout player, obviously that's frustrating," Jackson said. "But at the same time, knowing how long the NFL season is, and just knowing how the NFL works, you always gotta be ready."

Jackson said other friends in the NFL, such as former Redskins cornerback Brandyn Thompson and Rams receiver Austin Pettis, helped him "make sure that I have my head on straight and I wasn't letting that frustration get in the way of me doing my job Monday through Saturday."

Ravens coach John Harbaugh said that with the injuries to Webb and linebacker Ray Lewis, it is indeed next man up.

"It’s an opportunity," Harbaugh said at his Wednesday news conference. "You know the old saying: ‘When one door closes, another door opens,’ right? We’ve all heard that since we were kids, and that’s true. There are going to be opportunities for guys to [step up]."

If Jackson is called upon to be one of those guys, he says he's ready.

"Football is football," he said. "Obviously it's a little faster, some guys are a little bigger, but it's the same game I've been playing since I was 9 years old out in the rec fields in Sacramento."

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Steelers players plunder Le'Veon Bell's locker a day after missed deadline

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Steelers players plunder Le'Veon Bell's locker a day after missed deadline

Le'Veon Bell decided not to return to the Steelers this season, and his former teammates have apparently decided they can have his belongings. 

The All-Pro running back didn't sign his $14.5 million franchise tag by Tuesday's deadline, and thus is ineligible to play this season.

Steelers player were seen plundering his locker Wednesday in front of reporters. Defensive end Bud Dupree went right for Bell's cleats, thanking him for the Jordan brand shoes and saying he wishes Bell success.

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger told reporters he sent Bell his well-wishes, but got no response from his former backfield mate. 

It's unclear what Bell plans to do next, but it's crystal clear the Steelers have moved on, with his shoes in tow. 

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Lamar Jackson, Robert Griffin III prepared to start if hip injury sidelines Joe Flacco

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USA TODAY Sports

Lamar Jackson, Robert Griffin III prepared to start if hip injury sidelines Joe Flacco

Rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson has had his fair share of life changing moments. 

Winning the Heisman Trophy in 2016, being drafted by the Ravens in the first-round of the 2018 NFL Draft, and come Sunday, possibly his first NFL start.

With Joe Flacco nursing a hip injury suffered against the Pittsburgh Steelers Week 9, the 21-year-old could be leading the Ravens for a full 60 minutes against division rival Cincinnati Bengals in what could be a defining moment of their season.

"I'm just going into it like any other week," Jackson said Wednesday. "Just preparing for whatever."

While Jackson has appeared in all nine games going 7-for-12 for 87 passing yards and one touchdown, he is the only first-round quarterback out of the 2018 draft that has yet to start this season. 

When asked how he would feel if his name is called Sunday, Jackson said he would have butterflies at first but added once the ball is snapped, "it's on."

Through the Ravens' first half of the season, how and when Jackson is utilized at either quarterback or receiver, has lacked consistency. Add in the lack of highlight reel passes from him and many are concerned he's not ready for an NFL start. 

The fast style of NFL play compared to that of college football was something Jackson admittedly struggled with throughout the preseason. But with nine regular season games under his belt, Jackson feels that is the area where he's taken the biggest strides. 

"Calling the plays," Jackson said. "Before I'd have to ask coach a hundred times, 'say it again, say it again,' but now he says it one time to me. Don't get me wrong, sometimes if [the call] is long or whatever I have to ask [coach to] say it again, but other than that I'm getting better with that."

Head coach John Harbaugh offered no insight on who would be their starting quarterback on Sunday and it can be expected he'll keep hush up until the last moment. Flacco was not on the practice field during media availability Wednesday, either. 

But let's not forget the other veteran quarterback on their roster; Robert Griffin III

For the first time since 2009, the Ravens decided to keep three quarterbacks on their 53-man roster for this very reason.

After sitting out of football for a year, RGIII was given a second chance in Baltimore, but has been a gameday inactive since the start of the season. If the week progresses and neither Flacco or Jackson seem ready, it could be the comeback of the once Offensive Rookie of the Year. 

"That's my job. That's why they brought me here," Griffin III said Wednesday on if he feels prepared to possibly start. "They brought me here to be a pro. They brought me here to help this team if need be. I try to help the defense every week on scout team and then do those [reps], and if my number's called I'll be able to go out there and lead this team."

Both RGIII and Jackson said that it would be "awesome" if they were named the starting QB on Sunday, but that no matter who it ends up being they're all here for one another.

"I'm going to continue to help [Lamar] just like I have all season because we're about the Ravens here," Griffin III said. "It's not about individuals. We've got a pretty daunting task ahead with this Bengals team and then just with the rest of our schedule, so we've got to make sure we make the most of every opportunity."

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