Ravens' Huntley eyes opportunity for first postseason start

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Tyler Huntley (2) scrambles against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first half of an NFL football game in Baltimore, Sunday, Jan. 1, 2023. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) — Tyler Huntley's postseason debut came two years ago, when Lamar Jackson left Baltimore's game at Buffalo with a concussion and the Ravens never did reach the end zone.

Now Huntley is hoping to make his first playoff start this weekend — but the circumstances aren't necessarily any more favorable.

Jackson will miss Baltimore's game at Cincinnati on Sunday night because of a knee injury. Huntley is the team's top backup, although coach John Harbaugh wouldn't commit to a starting quarterback Friday. Huntley has dealt with tendinitis in his shoulder, but he was a full participant in practice after being limited earlier in the week.

“I’m doing good. I’m feeling better,” Huntley said. "Continue to progress, and I’m getting ready for this weekend.”

When you're a backup quarterback, you don't get to choose the timing of your big chance. Not only has Huntley been dealing with nagging injuries, he's also part of an offense that is missing its top two wide receivers from the beginning of the season. It's not an ideal scenario for him to prove his worth, but like his team, Huntley has to play the hand he's dealt.

“No nerves, just more excited to get back out there," he said. "It’s just another opportunity to go play football, and I appreciate it. To be doing it with the Ravens, that puts it over the top.”

Huntley signed with Baltimore as an undrafted rookie in 2020. He played briefly that season and threw for 60 yards in a 17-3 playoff loss to the Bills. Then he made his first start in November 2021, a win at Chicago.

When Jackson went down with an ankle injury, he started a December game against Green Bay and accounted for four touchdowns, but the Ravens lost that contest and two more of Huntley's starts and missed the playoffs.

When Jackson hurt his knee in early December this season, Huntley was ready. He completed 27 of 32 passes in relief and led a 91-yard drive for the winning touchdown — which he scored himself — in a 10-9 victory over Denver. But in his four starts since, he has not surpassed 138 yards passing or 31 yards rushing, and Baltimore hasn't scored more than 17 points.

“We just have to execute. Down in the red zone, we just have to execute,” Huntley said. "It’ll literally take one play to slow it down, and so we just have to make that one play when it’s called, and it’ll look a whole (lot) different.”

The Ravens weren't looking that great offensively even before Jackson's injury. Receiver Rashod Bateman went on injured reserve in early November because of foot problems, and receiver Devin Duvernay joined him on IR more recently. That has left Huntley without much help on offense, although Baltimore does have running back J.K. Dobbins back from his knee issues and playing well.

Then there's the issue of Huntley's own health. He was held out of the regular-season finale, and although he was able to throw at practice the past couple days, the team listed him as questionable for Sunday.

Rookie Anthony Brown is next in line behind Huntley. He made his first career start last weekend, in a game that was also at Cincinnati.

“Just playing a regular-season NFL game is extremely important, and on top of that, playing against the same team again is a really good thing to help my experience,” he said. "Just in case I do get the call this weekend.”

Harbaugh was noncommittal about the quarterback situation — but upbeat.

“The guys have worked super hard, and Lamar has done a great job working hard, and Tyler has worked super hard to get back and got back on the practice field this week, as you saw,” Harbaugh said. "So, we’ll see where he’s at, but I’m excited for maybe that paying off for him, maybe he can be out there. We’ll see.”

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Follow Noah Trister at https://twitter.com/noahtrister

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