Mike Preston: Ravens death hits close to home outside linebacker Jaylon Ferguson

The Ravens’ death outside linebacker Jaylon Ferguson is different as he played in Baltimore.

After nearly 35 years of sports writing, you become immune to the ups and downs of professional sports, especially when things take place in other cities or other parts of the country.

But tragedy struck Baltimore on Wednesday when the Ravens announced that Ferguson had died, Baltimore police said a home was found unresponsive in the 400 block of Ilchester Avenue in the Ferguson Harwood neighborhood.

Police said there were no signs of trauma or foul play, but investigators are not ruling out the possibility of an overdose before they can determine a cause of death. It’s irrelevant to me. The father of three children, Ferguson was just 26 years old. It is a tragedy, regardless of the circumstances.

It’s too small for someone to die.

He will never see his kids graduating from high school or college or seeing them get married. He won’t be coaching at football clinics or becoming a grandparent.

I didn’t know Ferguson very well.

In fact, in his last three seasons with the Ravens, I’ve only interviewed him three times. But he played for Baltimore, and he hit home.

I saw him come into the league as a rookie. I noticed that he was trying to play defensive end while settling in the outside linebacker. According to several current and former Ravens assistant coaches, Ferguson was a hardworking, likable player who had already overcome many obstacles growing up in Zachary and Ruston, Louisiana.

By Wednesday afternoon, many of his current and former teammates had already paid tribute to Ferguson with posts on social media. More than any other sport, football creates that type of bonding.

I once had a junior high school football coach, Richard Herman, who used to say that the only group more at war than a football team are men. I believed that for the longest time, and to some extent, I still believe it.

This bond is unparalleled by lifting weights, attending meetings, exercising in 100-degree heat, and competing in tough conditions. This is why Ferguson’s death can be so devastating to an organization.

There are too many heavy hearts in The Castle, and unfortunately no blueprint, no X’s and O’s, how to fix them.

I have been in this situation before. In 2013, I coached New Town’s lacrosse team and my assistant, Terry Kimball, died of cancer.

We had a game on the morning of his death, and one of the officials offered condolences to one of my players, who asked me if Coach Kimball, whom he loved, had died.

I told the player I didn’t know because we had to go through this game and go back to school. Later, I narrated the news to the team but broke down a couple of times. The players told their parents. Some of them came crying.

As the head coach, I only had to work with 14 players. Ravens coach John Harbaugh has to deal with about 90, not to mention front office workers. They have to control their emotions while counseling and counseling others. Being a head coach is one of the toughest positions.

A former Ravens assistant said this season could be Ferguson’s breakout year. This was going to be his fourth season after being a third-round draft pick in 2019, and he lost anywhere between 20 and 30 pounds.

ferguson did well in minicamp, finally showing the explosion he lacked in previous years. Maybe he was finally going to live up to the reputation he built in college when he broke the NCAA Football Bowl subdivision record for career sacks with 45, surpassing former Ravens great Terrell Suggs’ mark of 44. Those sacks earned him the nickname “Sack Papa.”

Yet, it is much more than just football. Life is many things, and certainly fragile.

When most of us first heard the news on Wednesday morning, we probably wondered why. How is this possible? Despite this, sadness soon prevailed, and many of us felt a personal tragedy.

Ferguson was very young, and he died at home in Baltimore.


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