The Baltimore Ravens opened their 2022 training camp with heavy hearts and minds when most of them reported to the Under Armor Performance Center for the first time since Mandatory Minicamp and the passing of outside linebacker Jaylon Ferguson.
Less than a week after the team broke for the summer, the 26-year-old husband and father of three suddenly passed. It rocked the organization and all of his teammates to their core and many of them are still finding a hard time coming to terms with it just over a month later.
“That’s something that has been hard,” defensive end Calais Campbell said. “It’s been hard for all of us. After minicamp when it happened, we had a call and everyone got to say something if they wanted to. It was just a prayer and all of that good stuff. But, it really is just one of those things where you couldn’t believe it when it happened. It was just like, ‘Wow.’ You forget that things can happen, and quick.”
The entire team with exception of rookie outside linebacker David Ojabo reported for camp on Tuesday and Ferguson’s presence was missed as he remains in everyone’s thoughts and prayers.
“Guys talked about him today, there was a lot of conversations where it was like, ‘Man.’ You definitely have that sense that you lost a really good friend, a person that you cared about,” Campbell said. “It’s definitely still hard, but I think that it’s something that we have to manage as a team. I know that a bunch of guys want to do something for him this year, and for his family to show our appreciation for his friendship and to try to help his family out. I don’t know what everyone is going to do, but there are definitely some conversations going on to figure out what we can do moving forward.”
Inside linebacker Patrick Queen was one of Ferguson’s closest friends on and off the field. Both were high draft picks by the Ravens in consecutive years and are Louisiana natives where they played college ball in their home state. Queen played at LSU from 2017-2019 and won a national title in 2019 and Ferguson played at Louisiana Tech from 2015-2018 during which he set the college career sack record and earned the nickname ‘Sack Daddy’.
“It’s tough,” Queen said. “That was my guy. He grew up 25 minutes away from me. So, I definitely miss him, it definitely hits hard, but we’re just going to go out there and do it for him this year. [We’re] still sending prayers to him and his family and just keeping them in our prayers.”
He was notified of Ferguson’s untimely death by one of his coaches early in the morning and said he sat in shock before sobbing over the loss of his dear friend.
“I still couldn’t grasp it,” Queen said. “It took me, probably, a good, two, three days just to calm down and be able to accept it. But it’s still tough.”
The Ravens aren’t sure how they will honor Ferguson yet for this upcoming season and going forward. In the past, the team has honored players, coaches, and former owner Art Modell with a patch on their jerseys or decals on their helmets. Symbolic gestures aside, the team is focused on being there for his family first and foremost.
“Probably the biggest thing is just trying to make sure that we keep his family as a part of [our] family, and trying to make sure that we do something to just show our love and appreciation for who he was and what he represented,” Campbell said. “He was a great Raven. But, it’s going to be something that’s hard to deal with all year.”
Head coach John Harbaugh said that the team has grief counselors available for anyone in the origination that needs it, echoed similar sentiments about being there for his family, and offered some clarity on how they will honor him this year.
“Our hearts are always going to grieve for Jaylon [Ferguson]; they’re always going to go out to [his fiancée] Doni [Smith] and the family,” Harbaugh said. “We’ll do something to honor him, for sure. I’m kind of letting the players think about that a little bit. We’ll probably have something on our uniform and see where we go from there.”