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From hospital to history: Inside Lamar Jackson's first NFL start

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BALTIMORE -- Three days before Sunday's must-win game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh questioned whether Lamar Jackson would be healthy enough to make his first NFL start.

Jackson was at the hospital after suffering pains in his stomach and missed all of Thursday's practice. Not only did Jackson pass all the medical tests, the rookie first-round pick made the grade in replacing injured Joe Flacco.

Jackson's 117 yards rushing in Sunday's 24-21 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals set a Ravens record and etched him into the NFL record books. He became the first quarterback in the Super Bowl era to record at least 100 rushing yards in his first career start.

Thanks to Jackson, the Ravens (5-5) ended their three-game losing streak and are holding the No. 6 and final playoff spot in the AFC.

Here’s a look through the words of those who lived one of the craziest and exhilarating weeks in the Ravens' existence:

Getting the call

Harbaugh knew during the bye that Flacco was probably not going to play because of a hip injury he'd suffered in the last game. The final determination came early in the week, when Flacco wasn't medically cleared after visiting a doctor in New York. Harbaugh's options to replace Flacco were Jackson or Robert Griffin III.

Harbaugh: "I won’t say [QB Robert Griffin III] wasn’t considered. We could have played with Robert and played very well. But, Lamar is our backup quarterback. He was our No. 2 guy all year -- it wasn’t a question. Really, from day one, he has earned it. He was the next man up."

Jackson: "It was pretty cool [when told of the news he was starting]. I just knew I had to work harder, focus in, focus in on the game plan."

Wide receiver Willie Snead: "I think everybody was ready to see Lamar. We’re just looking for an edge at some point. [We were] 4-5, and we were itching for a victory."

Jackson: "A lot of people were coming up to me. I’m a rookie; it’s my first time starting, [telling me] just go out there and be myself. My teammates have my back, I have theirs."

Trip to the hospital

The Ravens' plans to start Jackson suddenly became uncertain Thursday when the 2016 Heisman Trophy winner was sent to the hospital.

Harbaugh: "When the stomach thing happened, I have to admit, I was concerned about that. I didn’t know what that was. We got a pretty good report once he got to the hospital that it wasn’t serious. It wasn’t appendicitis or anything like that. Thank God. I texted him, and he told me he was fine, so that made me feel good. He came back Friday morning ready to go -- very blessed on that one."

Jackson: "I don’t know what happened to my stomach. It was right before Thursday’s practice. I told coach ... I told our trainer, Ron [Medlin], ‘You have to tell coach I can’t come out.’ My stomach just started hurting, I don’t know where. They sent me to the hospital. As soon as I got there, it was over, and I told them, ‘I’m coming back Friday morning.’"

Harbaugh: "[In missing Thursday's practice], I don’t think it was too bad because he had the extra day on Monday [coming off the bye], and he’s been practicing all year. A lot of the things that we ran today have been in the offense since Day 1. We didn’t just create an offense in the last week and a half. That’s stuff we’ve been running ever since OTAs."

Beginning with a bang

Jackson received a loud ovation when he stepped on the field for the first time as an NFL starter. He didn't disappoint, directing a 75-yard touchdown drive that featured 11 plays -- all runs -- including a 21-yard quarterback draw. Jackson, though, wasn't the portrait of poise heading into the game.

Jackson: "I think I stayed up all night last night. I was like, ‘Man, we need to play right now!’ I was ready to play last night, and 1 o’clock came, and it’s go time."

Harbaugh: "Well, I saw the first 15 plays and there were a lot of runs in there. But, a lot of those were RPOs, too, pass-options, and they gave us the run. Lamar reads that out so well. There were some runs that could have been throws in there. With the third downs, we were just in a position where we could run it -- we didn’t have to throw it as much. But, we’ll be throwing the ball quite a bit in the future. It wasn’t by design; it kind of played out that way."

Jackson: "It was awesome. We came out with a bang. We came in and scored. The second drive, we didn’t score. The third drive, we didn’t score, so I started getting ticked off. I was like, ‘We have to put points on the board. Our defense keeps getting out there. We’re not performing well.’ So, yes, it was pretty cool for the first drive."

Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict: "It’s like facing two different offenses. With Joe Flacco, he just stands back there and isn’t very mobile but he throws the ball hard. This guy [Jackson] is very unpredictable."

Dealing with adversity

Jackson's biggest mistake came on the first drive of the second half, when he threw an interception. The Bengals converted that turnover into a touchdown and eventually took a 21-13 lead.

"It's crazy; he looked even faster in the game than he does when we practice against him every day. He's just got a giddy-up that no one sees every day." C.J. Mosley on Jackson

Jackson: "I hated that. I put our defense in a bad situation, and [safety Shawn Williams] caught an interception and ran to the 30-yard line. And, I’m like, ‘They’ll probably kick a field goal to score. We have to go down there and punch it in.’"

Ravens safety Eric Weddle: "The way he bounced back and his composure ... he threw that pick and what did he do the next drive? He went down and scored. It was like nothing had happened. You can’t teach that. It’s something that you see in him. He’s very even keel, cool, calm and collected. I love that."

Ravens linebacker C.J. Mosley: "It’s crazy; he looked even faster in the game than he does when we practice against him every day. He’s just got a giddy-up that no one sees every day. It was amazing seeing him out there playing and getting his first win. Hopefully we can start a good run now."

Making the final play

With the Ravens holding a 24-21 lead, cornerback Marlon Humphrey broke up an Andy Dalton fourth-down pass with 1:42 remaining to seal the win in Jackson's first start.

Jackson: "When our defense stopped them, Coach said, 'We have to get ready for victory [formation]. That's when it all went to my head. I was overwhelmed. I was like, 'We really did it. We came out and we won.'"

Chad Steele, Ravens vice president of public relations: "After the last play, he gave the ball away to the official. I'm like, 'Lamar, that's your first win. You need that ball.'"

Jackson: "I chased the guy, had a strip sack on the referee. I played defense today, too."