"I definitely feel wanted here," the 22-year-old Brown said. "Even though I had my injury, they still wanted me to come here."

Brown first participated in drills early in training camp, and after missing a few days to rest the knee in the middle of camp, he started to emerge from obscurity by catching eight passes for 138 yards and two touchdowns in the team's final two preseason games.

"He's naturally gifted. He has that hunger," Smith said. "He didn't have the luxury of being eased in. They had to find out [quickly] if he could play or not. He went out there and was fighting, and that's a credit to him. The first day he came out there, you could see his burst and his natural skills. I thought, 'Man, if he didn't get injured, he wouldn't be in Baltimore right now.'"

Brown started the opener against the Broncos, and after Jones went down, he ended up playing 67 snaps. He caught four passes for 65 yards and scored on a 13-yard reception, beating Broncos cornerback Kayvon Webster on a corner route in the end zone.

There was a flag on the play, though, so Brown didn't immediately celebrate. He was walking off the field when veteran receiver Brandon Stokley ran up and congratulated him on his first NFL touchdown. The penalty was on the defense. Back in the locker room, his phone buzzed with well wishes.

"It was like a real dream come true," Brown said of his NFL debut. "But to be honest, I was just trying to focus on my task because I didn't want to mess up in front of everyone. That was my mindset."

Harbaugh said this week that he is looking forward to seeing how Brown develops. "We're kind of excited about it," the coach said. But with Jones sidelined and a few other new faces being worked into the offense, the Ravens need him to develop faster than what was expected just a few weeks ago, when Brown first set foot on their practice fields.

That he would find himself in this opportunity seemed unlikely on that painful evening in November. But Brown said he always believed he would work his way into the NFL somehow.

"I could imagine it, because I had a vision for myself and a work ethic to get me where I wanted to be," he said. "So me being here right now and doing the things that I'm doing, I'm not surprised by it because I had a vision and I worked for it. And now I'm here."

matt.vensel@baltsun.com

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