David Reed might have vaulted himself into the team's discussions about its options at wide receiver with his impressive preseason debut.
His performance — three catches for 68 yards in the Ravens' 31-13 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs on Friday night — also was a surprise, at least to coach John Harbaugh.
Harbaugh acknowledged that he was shocked to see Reed participate against the Chiefs, considering that Reed, who had been nursing a left wrist injury, had been activated from the Ravens' physically-unable-to-perform list Aug. 15.
"I was very surprised he got in the game and then played as well as he did because he wasn't even supposed to be in contact last week," Harbaugh said Sunday. "All of the sudden, he jumped in there and went full-go. All of the sudden, the trainers were like, 'OK, I guess he is OK.' That was a pleasant surprise, and I am looking forward to seeing how he does the next couple of weeks. He is a guy that we have been counting on, and we are very hopeful that he can be a threat for us."
Reed spoke briefly after Monday's practice at the team's training facility in Owings Mills because of a mandatory special teams meeting, but he said he he had been eager to test his wrist and his physical conditioning against the Chiefs.
"It was a big relief," he said. "I was excited to be out there. I wanted to play so bad. I wanted to play from the start. But I got my time in and I made a couple of plays, and I've just got to build on that."
Indeed, Reed, a fifth-round pick last year, seems to understand that he faces an uphill battle. Not only did he miss the first 13 days of practice at training camp after he underwent surgery to repair a torn ligament in the wrist, but he also has watched the organization acquire Lee Evans from the Buffalo Bills and select a pair of rookies in Torrey Smith and Tandon Doss in the draft this past April.
But offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said Reed has not fallen behind the rookies. In fact, Cameron asserted that Reed's experience in the offense propels him ahead of Smith and Doss.
"I would say he's ahead," Cameron said Monday. "Last year, right when I got excited about him, he gets hurt. Then, this offseason, he had to have the wrist done. Now he's back, and hopefully he'll stay healthy. There's no question that he's ahead of these guys in the sense that he's not hearing most of this stuff for the first time. He has a good feel for NFL defenses. He knows what the expectation is. He's been nothing but a plus, not only this year so far, but he's come back with the right attitude. He's practiced well, and he played pretty good the other night."
Last season didn't unfold quite the way Reed, 6 feet, 190 pounds, had envisioned. Although the former Utah standout did lead the NFL with a 29.3-yard kick-return average and posted a franchise-record 103-yard kick return for a touchdown in a 34-28 overtime win against the Houston Texans on Dec. 13, he did not catch a pass.
Reed was charged Dec. 8 with possession of marijuana, but the charges were dropped in February. He tore the wrist ligament in the team's 30-24 win against the New Orleans Saints on Dec. 19 and missed the final two games of the regular season and both contests in the postseason.
All that seemed like a distant memory against Kansas City. Reed dropped the first pass thrown to him by rookie quarterback Tyrod Taylor in the fourth quarter, but he was perfect after that.
Reed caught a 9-yard pass for a first down. He drew a pass-interference call on cornerback Jalil Brown that moved the offense an additional 25 yards. And he moved the first-down chains 18 more yards on a crossing route that took advantage of a cornerback blitz.
Reed's coup de grace occurred on the offense's next possession, when he out-jumped cornerback Quinten Lawrence to pull in a deep ball from Taylor for a 41-yard gain.
"It feels great to get back to where I was," Reed said after the game. "It's a blessing from God that I'm able to catch the way that I used to be catching before I got the surgery and everything."
His showing against Kansas City notwithstanding, Reed appears to be running behind Smith, who has joined starters Anquan Boldin and Evans when the first offense goes to a three-receiver set in practice. In a typical offensive formation with just two wide receivers, Reed has lined up with rookie LaQuan Williams behind Smith and Doss.
Cameron, however, said the competition remains open and Reed has the potential to be the offense's No. 3 receiver.
"There's great competition for those guys," Cameron said. "He's an extremely talented young man. He just needs to play. He's an outstanding route runner. He's got great hands. If we keep him healthy, this guy can help us win."
Baltimore Sun reporter Jamison Hensley contributed to this article.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun