It’s unusual for any Ravens players or coaches to answer a question about a player on the practice squad during the regular season.
It’s also completely unheard of for a practice squad player to be a theme of a particular weekday availability before the most important game of the season thus far, against the Ravens’ biggest rival.
But that’s what happened Wednesday, as questions about newest Ravens wide receiver Dez Bryant were intertwined with notes about the unbeaten Steelers.
Bryant, who was signed to the Ravens’ practice squad Tuesday, hasn’t played in the NFL since 2017 as a member of the Cowboys. He’s also a three-time Pro Bowl selection and one-time All-Pro, making him likely the most accomplished practice squad player in league history.
“It’s tremendous,” quarterback Lamar Jackson said. “Just got to see what he’s capable of. Watched him on IG a lot doing his thing. He be grinding, getting after it. Ozzie (Newsome) and (general manager) Eric (DeCosta), those guys did a great job upstairs bringing him in. See what he’s capable of and we’ll go from there.”
The Ravens have struggled in the passing game this season, which has left the team yearning for more as the weeks go by.
Jackson is throwing for seven yards per attempt and 189.2 yards per game, down from his marks of 7.8 and 208.5 a year ago. And as a team, the Ravens rank 31st in the NFL in passing yards-per-game — only ahead of the New York Jets.
The move for Bryant, who is looking to rekindle some of his previous success, is designed to give the passing game another weapon on the outside, an area they certainly need to upgrade.
“A healthy Dez, he’s the ‘X’ factor,” defensive back Jimmy Smith said. “I’ve been playing against him since college. We know what he’s capable of, a big body, when he’s covered he still catches the ball. Just bringing an element of that type of player, kind of similar to when we had Anquan Boldin back in the day. Makes those great contested catches, and has that dog attitude that you want on your offense.”
Bryant will be on the team’s practice squad until the Ravens have determined whether or not the 31-year-old is capable of playing in games.
At that point, the veteran wideout will have had to make his name on the practice squad and prove he’s able to see the field for a regular season game.
Bryant hasn’t caught a pass in an NFL game since New Year’s Eve in 2017. His job now is to prove to the Ravens he can.
“We’ll just see where he’s at,” coach John Harbaugh said. “He hasn’t played for how many years? We’ll see where he’s at. 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. When and if he’s ready to go, he’ll be out there.”