Six seasons and two teams into an often-turbulent NFL career, Jalen Ramsey finally is on the stage where he starts every season expecting to play.
The Super Bowl.
Ramsey says it feels good. Really good.
“It means a lot to be in this position with this team and with these guys,” Ramsey said Monday. “I mean obviously this is the highest achievement that you can achieve in our profession, so it means a lot. And I'm super grateful and I'm cherishing all these moments.”
The man who calls himself the NFL's best defensive back will play his first Super Bowl on Sunday with the Los Angeles Rams against Cincinnati after missing the opportunity by mere minutes in his second season in the league when the team that drafted him blew a 10-point lead in the AFC championship game.
Did anything from that first playoff run help him this postseason? It didn't, not four years later.
“There's no correlation honestly at all,” Ramsey said.
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Ramsey feels very wanted in Los Angeles and insists he holds no grudge against the Jaguars. After all, the Rams gave up a trio of draft picks, including two first-rounders. Ramsey still remembers the date he finally got his wish with Jacksonville trading him away, or as he calls Oct. 15, a “very good day.”
“Happy, grateful," Ramsey said. "Not only grateful for the Rams trading for me, but I was grateful for my time and my experiences that I had in Jacksonville as well. It all helped. It all helped build me, mold me into who I am today, so I'm grateful for all of the journey.”
The Jaguars liked Ramsey enough to make him the fifth overall selection in the 2016 NFL draft. He was an All-Pro his second season with four interceptions.
As talented as the 6-foot-2 Ramsey is, he comes with baggage.
He was arrested in 2018 for confronting a man who made a comment about his driving. The Jaguars suspended him in August 2018 for screaming obscenities at reporters during training camp, then days later he made headlines calling Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen “trash” in an interview.
Upset at not being offered a long-term contract, Ramsey had a heated exchange with then-coach Doug Marrone on the sideline of a game at Houston in Week 2 of 2019. A trade request followed a postgame meeting. Ramsey played one more game, then sat out three weeks seemingly faking a back injury in hopes of forcing a trade.
Not that his Rams' tenure has been spotless. Ramsey came to blows with Giants receiver Golden Tate, a fellow Tennessean, after a game in October 2020 as part of a simmering family feud. Ramsey has two children with Tate's sister.
On the field, Ramsey has been every bit the elite cornerback and star the Rams wanted, and this is his best season yet in Los Angeles. He tied for the team lead with four interceptions while ranking fifth on the Rams with 77 tackles. That earned him his third All-Pro nod and fifth Pro Bowl slot.
“He’s definitely probably the best cornerback in the NFL,” Bengals receiver Tyler Boyd said. "He does a great job of watching film. He’s just so rangy. He’s a big guy. He’s bigger than an average corner. That’s what helps him a lot because he can cover a lot of range, and he could get to a lot of spots sooner than other corners.”
Ramsey's likely challenge Sunday will be defending Ja'Marr Chase. Cincinnati's Pro Bowl receiver's 1,455 yards receiving in the regular season are the most by a rookie in the Super Bowl era, and Chase's 279 yards receiving in the postseason are the most ever by a rookie.
Chase said Ramsey trusts his speed a lot.
“I don't now how fast he runs in his 40, but we're most likely going to find out on game day,” Chase said.
That's the kind of confidence Ramsey can appreciate, making clear again Monday he considers himself the greatest defensive back in the NFL.
“I've consistently been great over the years,” Ramsey said. “So I've shown that I will show up when I need to show up, and that's what I plan to do again on Sunday.”
Ramsey isn't worried about giving up a catch or two. His goals are set higher.
“We playing for a Super Bowl,” Ramsey said. “I'm not going out there Sunday playing for anything individualized. I'm going to play for a ring that everybody on this team can also get. That's what this is about on Sunday.”