Dez Bryant’s first thought was about his daughter.
After he corralled his first touchdown since Dec. 10, 2020 on Sunday, as his teammates and coaches threw up the X along with him, Bryant’s return to the NFL was seemingly complete.
He’d already played well in spurts for the Ravens and been a nice spark when the offense needed a receiver. But Sunday, he got rewarded for it.
“I’m being honest, I had to hold back my tears, because like I said, it was very emotional,” Bryant said. “That love is real – I’m not joking when I say that. These guys here, they are 100. They are amazing, phenomenal people. Win, lose, or draw, I swear, there’s love in my heart for Baltimore forever.”
Bryant made just one catch against the Jaguars in a 40-10 whollping of the NFL’s newest holder of the No. 1 pick, but no one much cared after he found the end zone.
“Gosh, I was just really happy for him,” coach John Harbaugh said. “It was one of those moments that you could feel it. He came off the field … We’ve had a lot of conversations about that, leading up to that. So, I feel like it’s been a while coming. He’s worked hard; he sure earned it.”
The Ravens brought Bryant in early in the season and placed him on the practice squad, where he spent a few weeks before his call-up against the Colts.
He made his first catch on Nov 22 against the Titans, and all signs pointed to a breakout against the Cowboys in early December. But Bryant tweeted just before kickoff that he tested positive for COVID-19, and was pulled from the field hours before kick.
“Man, we were throwing up the ‘X,’” quarterback Lamar Jackson said with a smile. “We wanted to do that against Dallas -- me and Marquise (Brown) were talking about that. It just happened today, and I’m happy he was the one throwing it up before we did. Like you said, three years -- that’s incredible. He came back, got open on a broken-down play, and he did the rest. Hats off to him. We’ve just got to keep stacking for sure.”
Bryant’s return to the league wasn’t easy, as he signed with the Saints in November 2018, only to tear his achilles two days later. He spent all of 2018 and 2019 rehabbing, training for a chance to reach the end zone again.
Bryant, who credited his return to his daughter, promised her the game ball. And after he was done with his media responsibilities, he said he was going to Facetime her and show her the football he had for her.
His touchdown reaction was met with joy around the league, as one of the NFL’s most notable players of the last decade finally hit the end zone once again.
“The special thing about me throwing up the ‘X,’ the meaning is to ‘X’ out the negative, to truly never give up, to beat the odds, to destroy adversity -- that’s what it means, and that’s why I do it,” Bryant said. “I think that’s why a lot of people who know me know that’s what it means. Me throwing up the ‘X,’ and the world seeing it, it makes me feel good. I can only imagine how my Twitter family, how my Facebook family, how my Instagram family is acting right now. And I owe that to them, just as well as my daughter.”