Breshad Perriman's first touchdown catch of his fledgling career in the fourth quarter of the Ravens' 28-7 victory over the Cleveland Browns at M&T Bank Stadium was more than just a relief for the second-year wide receiver.
It was a reminder of what Perriman has endured since being selected by the organization in the first round of the 2015 NFL draft.
His rookie campaign was erased by a partially torn posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. His return was delayed by a partially torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during an offseason training activity in June that kept him on the team's physically unable to perform list until Aug. 18.
And his development has been uneven, a growth chart mixed with several scintillating catches for big gains and missed opportunities for greater production. So his 27-yard reception in the back left corner of the end zone Thursday night was a chance for him to ponder the journey he had taken to get to this stage in his career.
"All that hardship, basically, and just how long it took to get here and all the work I had to put in and all the stuff I've been through," Perriman said. "So yeah, that does hit your mind for a little bit and then you realize how blessed you are."
Fellow wideout Steve Smith Sr. said he was proud of Perriman and then launched into a vocal defense of the 23-year-old.
"I know people are saying, 'He is not playing up to his expectations as a first-round draft pick,'" Smith said. "Like Breshad woke up one morning and said, 'Hey, I am going to injure my knee.' He didn't. He has battled his tail off, and he is a young man who has dealt with adversity right out of the gate.
"When he first injured his knee, it was like the second day of training camp. Nobody expects that. He is a young man who had not really had to deal with that before, so that is tough. Being injured, people forget during the rehab what you go through mentally. To see how he stayed the course and really how he worked his butt off and kept chopping wood and kept his head down and not complain, a lot of people do not see that. I am always the first guy to say, 'Hey, you have to appreciate what he is doing.'"
Besides recording his first touchdown, Perriman racked up a personal best in receiving yards (64) and tied a personal high in catches (three). Quarterback Joe Flacco is hoping that Perriman can build on Thursday night's showing.
"That's what it's all about, going out there and proving to yourself that you can do it and making those plays," Flacco said. "Any time you're a young guy, and you do those things, it's good in the long run. … You feel a part of the team. ... In order to really feel part of the team and feel great about it, it's all about going out there and making plays and showing your teammates that you can do it. I think that will definitely be really, really big for him."