By Brandon Weigel

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Baltimore Ravens outside linebacker Jaylon Ferguson has died, the team announced Wednesday morning. He was 26.

“He was a kind, respectful young man with a big smile and an infectious personality,” the team said.

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“We express our heartfelt condolences to Jaylon’s family and friends as we mourn a life lost much too soon,” the team said.

In three seasons with the Ravens, Ferguson played 38 games, 10 of them starts, recording 67 combined tackles and 4 1/2 sacks.

Entering his fourth season with the team, Ferguson was a standout at the team’s recent minicamp after he showed up slimmed down and with an “obvious sense of urgency,” according to Todd Karpovich of the Sports Illustrated affiliate FanNation.

“Jaylon, right now, he’s doing a great job. He’s competing,” said new defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald. “The techniques that we’re teaching are slightly different than he knows, so that’s a little bit of a learning curve for him, but once he gets out there full-go and rolling, then I expect him to compete.”

On Wednesday evening, the team released a series of statements from head coach John Harbaugh and multiple players recalling how Ferguson was an engaging presence in the lockerroom, known for his smile and positive attitude.

Harbaugh described the 26-year-old as a “good-hearted, gentle person who loved his family and his team” and said he was a joy to be around.

“You always wanted to see and talk to ‘Ferg,'” he said. “Our prayers and our help go to his family. Our hearts are with his Spirit.”

Safety Tony Jefferson recalled a conversation with Ferguson at the team’s recent minicamp, where the linebacker told him he was ready to have a big year in his fourth campaign in purple and black.

“I believed it was going to be his best season as a Raven. He will be watching over us, I know it, and he will bring the team closer just from his mark he left,” Jefferson said. “He will definitely be missed. We love you, ‘Ferg Dog.’ May you continue to send your contagious energy to this team every day. We need it to get to where we want to get.”

Fellow outside linebacker Tyus Bowser, who came into the league two years ahead of his teammate, said both he and Ferguson underwent similar struggles to make a name for themselves in the NFL, and developed a strong bond as a result.

“Whether I was having a bad day or vice versa, we encouraged each other, and that’s what I appreciated most and what I’ll miss about him,” said Bowser. “His positive energy, encouragement and his belief in me helped mold me into the player and man I am today. He will be missed but NEVER forgotten.”

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Per NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport, Ferguson’s agent, Safarrah Lawson, said Ferguson’s family is asking “for your prayers and privacy during this trying time.”

The league expressed condolences to Ferguson’s family and friends in a statement.

“We are heartbroken to hear of the tragic loss of Jaylon Ferguson,” the NFL said.

A native of St. Francisville, La., Ferguson was drafted in the third-round of the 2019 NFL Draft out of Louisiana Tech, where he had 187 tackles and an NCAA record 45 sacks during his four years as a Bulldog, earning him the nickname “Sack Daddy.”

Louisiana Tech’s football team said the program was mourning the “sudden death of former Bulldog great.”

“We will remember his God-given talents on the field and his infectious personality off it,” the team said.

Baltimore Police said officers responded to the 400 block of Ilchester Avenue on Tuesday about 11:25 p.m. for a report of a questionable death.

They found Ferguson, who was unconscious, being treated by medics.

He was pronounced dead at the scene, police said.

The cause of his death is still being determined. There were no indications of trauma or foul play, police said, and investigators have not ruled out the possibility of an overdose.

As he entered his third season in the league, in 2021, Ferguson said he was picking up new techniques from some of the team’s veteran defensive linemen like Justin Houston, Pernell McPhee, Derek Wolfe, Tyus Bowser and Calais Campbell.

He was ready to “dominate” his opportunities on the field, he said.

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“As long as I get a chance to keep playing, as I long as I get a chance to keep my cleats on and come out here, I’m going to keep working, keep working to get better every single day,” Ferguson said.

Brandon Weigel