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As NFL debate rages about his position, Lamar Jackson says ‘I’m strictly a QB’

Lamar Jackson put up Heisman Trophy-winning numbers at Louisville as a quarterback. Some in the NFL believe he should switch positions, however.
Lamar Jackson put up Heisman Trophy-winning numbers at Louisville as a quarterback. Some in the NFL believe he should switch positions, however. (Stephen B. Morton/AP)

As far as Lamar Jackson is concerned, there should be no confusion about his position.

“I’m strictly a quarterback,” the former Louisville star and Heisman Trophy winner said Friday at the NFL Scouting Combine. “Whoever likes me at quarterback, that’s where I’m going.”

Earlier in the day, NFL Network reported that multiple teams had asked Jackson to work out as a wide receiver this week at Lucas Oil Stadium. But hours later, Jackson said he was “shocked” by the news because “no teams have asked me to play wide receiver. I don’t even know where [the report] came from.”

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The polarizing prospect confirmed he will throw at the combine (unlike Southern Cal quarterback Sam Darnold) but won’t run the 40-yard dash. “I’ve just got to show off my arm ’cause that’s where they’re doubting me,” Jackson said, joking that he feels “like [New Orleans’s] Drew Brees” after widening his throwing stance.

Jackson was good-natured about the criticism of his game, but he made it clear during his 15-minute podium session that he has no intention of fulfilling any request to work out at a different position or being anything but a signal caller in the NFL.

“No sir. I’m a quarterback,” the 21-year-old said, flashing a full set of braces to go along with his affable disposition.

Asked by a reporter whether he would be open to being used “all over the field” by a team that already has an established quarterback, Jackson said: “No wildcat. It’s not the Dolphins with Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams. No sir.”

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He’s a remarkable talent and a proven playmaker blessed with rare athleticism, speed and shiftiness. Some evaluators believe he’s Michael Vick but better. Others say Jackson lacks the necessary skills and aptitude to make NFL-level throws from the pocket.

“That’s crazy. I thought I did a good job at quarterback. I thought I did,” Jackson, a two-time ACC player of the year, said, laughing again.

He’s an elite college quarterback (9,043 passing yards, 69 touchdowns, plus 4,132 rushing yards and 50 rushing touchdowns), but doubts remain in league circles about his accuracy, mechanics and football intelligence. One notable critic is former NFL general manager Bill Polian, who cited Jackson’s 6-3, 200-pound frame and throwing ability as liabilities.

“Short, a little bit slight and clearly not the thrower the other guys are,” Polian said recently. “The accuracy isn’t there. Don’t wait to make that [position] change.”

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But other talent evaluators disagree. Asked about Jackson on Friday, Baltimore Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome said: “I don’t know what other teams think about him, but on our board he’s a quarterback.”

The consensus is that Jackson is an exceptional athlete who can make an immediate impact at the next level, but the debate rages about where he would fit best. Skeptics have never fazed him, though.

“I’ve faced adversity throughout my whole life,” he said. “Just going to high school, they said, ‘You can’t do this and that.’ Got to college, was able to do it. . . . I love putting a chip on my shoulder. It’s just more motivation to go out there and show my ability.”

Jackson also clarified that his mother, Felicia Jones, is his manager and that he hired a lawyer to negotiate his contract rather than an agent because of the current rookie wage scale. For now, though, he’s focused on the present, and that involves convincing NFL teams that he’s the best quarterback on the board.

Jackson, who has met with Buffalo, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Miami, Philadelphia and the New York Giants, said he believes the biggest questions he must answer are “What I bring to the table” and “Why should they draft me?” And he already has an answer prepared.

“I’m mobile,” he said. “I can hit any target on the field. I love the game with a passion. I can lead my team; I feel like I’m a field general when I’m out there. I love to score. I love to put the ball in other people’s hands. I’m not a ball hog at all. It may look like it, but I’m not. I just love winning.”

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