New Ravens tight end Jake Breeland says he’s in a good spot physically after October knee surgery, is confident he can crack the Ravens’ 53-man roster and is looking forward to continuing to honor his late father on the football field.
The 6-foot-5, 252-pound Breeland, who was signed as an undrafted free agent by Baltimore shortly after the 2020 NFL Draft, was well on his way to a breakout senior season before tearing the ACL and meniscus in his left knee during a win against Colorado Oct. 11. He had piled up 405 yards and six touchdowns in six games before he went down.
Breeland is six months out from surgery and has been running and lifting. Though he would’ve been limited had there been a rookie camp after the draft, Breeland is comfortable with where he is in his recovery and is confident he’ll be 100 percent for training camp.
“It feels really good, feels healthy and sturdy, so I’m super excited to get back to doing some football stuff,” Breeland said on Glenn Clark Radio May 6. “Overall, the whole process was definitely hard — hard to go down and miss a season. But at the same time, I wasn’t too worried about it. I knew God had a plan for me. I knew that I was going to play football again. Obviously, I would have liked to have gotten drafted, but I believe where I am now is where I’m supposed to be.”
Breeland, the fourth all-time receiving tight end in Oregon history (1,225 yards), said Ravens tight ends coach Bobby Engram and assistant tight ends coach Andy Bischoff talked to him during the free-agent process. The two coaches told him how the Ravens use tight ends and why he’d be a good fit in an offense led by quarterback Lamar Jackson.
The Ravens’ needs at the position surely nudged Breeland toward Baltimore, too. The Ravens have just two tight ends returning from last year’s team — Pro Bowler Mark Andrews and blocking extraordinaire Nick Boyle — and didn’t take one in the draft. With former first-round pick Hayden Hurst traded to the Atlanta Falcons, there’s an opening for a third tight end on the roster – and Baltimore made frequent use of three tight ends last year.
Andrews, Boyle and Hurst combined for 43 percent of the Ravens’ receptions last year. Breeland is looking forward to trying to fill the void left by Hurst. Baltimore also signed Georgia tight end Eli Wolf as an undrafted free agent.
“I definitely believe I can make the roster and I can get in some playing time this year,” Breeland said. “I’d love to learn from Mark Andrews and some of the tight ends, just great athletes and veterans that for sure can just expose me to some key factors to playing in the NFL. I’m just excited, honestly.”
Once Breeland is able to report to Owings Mills, Md., he’ll be given a different number than he wore in college. At Oregon, he wore No. 27 – not a common number for tight ends, but it’s the number his father, Garrett, wore as a linebacker at USC in the 1980s. Garrett Breeland died of a heart attack at the age of 51 in 2015, not long before his son reported to Oregon.
Jake Breeland explained that he wore his number with the Ducks so he could always remember him on the field and so observers would know who he was playing for.
“Raising me, he just made me a competitor,” Breeland said of his father. “He was teaching me just everything I needed to learn — how to be a hard worker, not to complain, to just grind on my own and let the results show themselves and just to be humble.
“My dad was super humble, super great guy, so I take pride in being humble and being the man that he would want me to be, the man of God that he wants me to be. Every day I try to be like him and just try to be that man that he wants me to be, that I know he would want me to be.”
Now, Breeland is trying to crack an NFL roster for him and his father. Though he’s not able to be at the Ravens’ facility right now and is still working back from a major injury, Breeland says he’s ramping up for football as best he can at his Orange County home.
“I’m going to be doing everything I can right now,” Breeland said. “Luckily, I have a gym in my garage so I’m able to work out in my garage and get a lot of work in and go out to the field, do some work, catch some balls and just be ready.”
For more from Breeland, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Oregon Athletics