John Harbaugh: Unclear How Quickly WR Dez Bryant Can Help Ravens

Wide receiver Dez Bryant hit the field for his first time as a member of the Ravens’ practice squad Oct. 28, although head coach John Harbaugh remained noncommittal about how quickly the veteran might contribute.

“We’ll see,” Harbaugh said. “He’s going to be on the practice squad, and we’ll see how it progresses from there.”

Bryant drew much more attention than the typical practice squad player, as news media focused their cameras on the wide receiver wearing the No. 11 scout team jersey to simulate Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Chase Claypool.

Bryant, who turns 32 next week, has 531 catches for 7,459 yards and 73 touchdowns, making him by far the most accomplished wide receiver on the Ravens’ roster. But the three-time Pro Bowl pick, who had three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons with the Dallas Cowboys from 2012-14, has not played in the NFL since 2017.

Released by Dallas in 2018, Bryant signed a one-year deal with the New Orleans Saints during the 2018 season but then tore his Achilles tendon two days later.

The Ravens signed him to the practice squad after a workout last week, his second with the team this year. Bryant had initially worked out for the Ravens in August.

In previous years, Bryant would have been ineligible for the practice squad, which was designed for young, developmental players. But a rules change this year allows teams to carry up to six players with unlimited service time on the 16-man practice squad.

At 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds, Bryant is a big, physical receiver and potentially a strong target for quarterback Lamar Jackson and a passing game that ranks 31st in the league (177.8 yards a game).

Other than wide receiver Marquise Brown (team-high 26 catches for 376 yards) and tight end Mark Andrews (20-243), the Ravens have struggled to get other receivers involved in the offense. Willie Snead and Miles Boykin each have totaled 11 catches in six games.

“Dez is the X Factor,” said veteran cornerback Jimmy Smith, who noted that he has faced Bryant all the way back to their college days. Smith likened Bryant’s toughness to former Ravens receiver Anquan Boldin.

Bryant, Smith said, “just makes those great, contested catches and has that attitude, that dog attitude, that you want on your offense. He’s only going to help us.”

How quickly, Harbaugh wouldn’t say.

“We’ll just see where he’s at,” Harbaugh said. “He hasn’t played in how many years? There’s a lot to learn. He looked good in the workout. I don’t think you need to make too much more of it than that. He’s on our practice squad roster, which means he’s available to us. So when and if he’s ready to go, he’ll be out there. So it’s just really that simple.”

The Ravens (5-1) face the undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers (6-0) in a critical AFC North showdown this week at M&T Bank Stadium, beginning a grueling November that includes two games with the Steelers and one with the Tennessee Titans (5-1), who knocked the Ravens out of the playoffs last year, as well as games at Indianapolis (4-2) and New England (2-4). The Ravens face Bryant’s old Dallas Cowboys team Dec. 3.

Offensive coordinator Greg Roman said Bryant looked good in his first Ravens practice and the team is “getting him up to speed. … It’s good to have him aboard.”

Photo Credit: Ed Sheahin/PressBox

Bo Smolka

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