Ravens wide receiver Breshad Perriman missed his entire rookie season in 2015 because of a persistent knee injury. Having to watch the Ravens play every week while being unable to get onto the field tested his psyche, but it was a wholly different feeling from the one he experienced Sunday.
Two years ago, Perriman couldn’t do it physically. The knee injury, suffered in the first full-squad practice of training camp, was beyond his control. But on Sunday against the Green Bay Packers, Perriman was both extremely willing and able to take the field. The Ravens’ decision-makers just decided there were better options.
“I don’t totally agree with it, but I understand why it happened,” Perriman said in his first public comments since he was a healthy scratch for the first time in his three-year NFL career. “I let them guys up there, they control that. All I can control is me working hard every week throughout practice and having it roll over to the game.”
Perriman’s coaches and teammates continue to defend the 2015 first-round pick despite the fact that he has just seven catches for 54 yards in eight games this season and was held out Sunday at a time when the Ravens (5-5) are fighting to resuscitate their downfield passing game.
Coach John Harbaugh disputed a recent outside report that suggested Perriman isn’t practicing well and reiterated Wednesday that the wide receiver’s being held out had a lot to do with the team’s game-day needs at other positions. Michael Campanaro and Chris Moore, the third and fourth active receivers against the Packers behind Mike Wallace and Jeremy Maclin, are both key players on special teams, which Perriman doesn’t play.
However, Harbaugh also didn’t say Perriman will be active against the Houston Texans (4-6) on “Monday Night Football” at M&T Bank Stadium.
“It will be based on game plan, it will be based on really what I think gives us the best chance to win the game,” Harbaugh said before launching into a defense of Perriman. “It is a long career. In this league, things are not decided in one day. Look at [Ravens running back] Alex Collins — it is not decided in one week or two weeks or even a season or two. I do believe in Breshad. I do believe he is going to play well, and he will be back up just as soon as it makes the most sense for us to win the game, and it could be this week. We have not decided that yet.”
At this time last week, Perriman learned he was not in the game plan against the Packers. He actually spent much of the week working with the scout team, whose job it is to provide the offense and defense with looks used by their upcoming opponent. So Perriman’s role was essentially to mimic Packers receivers such as Davante Adams and Jordy Nelson.
The scout team is an important function for any organization, but it’s certainly a rare place to find a recent first-round pick the organization was banking on having a breakout season. Instead, Perriman has struggled to make an impact. He’s not been able to connect with Joe Flacco on any deep passes and he’s actually had two potential big plays hit off his hands and land in the hands of a defender for key interceptions.
It probably wasn’t a coincidence that in the team’s previous game before he was inactive, Perriman dropped two passes against the Titans and one of them was intercepted, leading to a Tennessee touchdown.
“It’s definitely a test,” Perriman said. “I’ve been through a lot of tests throughout my career, throughout my life in general. I’m not worrying too much about it. I know I’ll over overcome and I know I’ll come back from this test better.”
His locker surrounded by a handful of reporters, Perriman chose his words carefully after Wednesday’s practice. Typically soft-spoken, he didn’t express much emotion about his recent demotion beyond conceding that he didn’t agree with the decision and that it was difficult on him.
“Being a competitor, I just want to go out there and compete with my guys every week, every Sunday, no matter what day we play,” Perriman said. “It was definitely [tough] going out there and having to sit and watch them go to war without me.”
“I’m hoping,” he said when asked whether being a healthy scratch could be used as motivation. “Anytime you’re not out there, of course, it’s got to be some type of motivation because you’re not playing.”
Perriman, 24, is running out of time to salvage his Ravens career. He has one guaranteed year left on his contract and the Ravens also have an option for 2019 that they are unlikely to pick up this offseason, barring a major about-face in the wide receiver’s performance over the final six games of the regular season.
His Ravens career, to this point, has been marred by injuries and an inability to carry the speed and play-making ability that he shows at times in practice into the games.
“I think this offense as a whole, we’ve been a little frustrated this year, and I think that goes for everybody,” Flacco said, answering a question about Perriman without specifically mentioning the receiver. “We haven’t played as well as we wanted to, and that leaves a little bit of frustration. But we’re working through that.”
Flacco did say that it’s up to him and other Ravens teammates to “rally” around Perriman and remind him that the offense needs him on the field.
Harbaugh said he spoke to Perriman on the team flight coming home from Tennessee and again after the Packers game. The coach believes the former Central Florida standout will respond well to the demotion and mentioned that he’s been putting together some good practices.
Ravens wide receiver Mike Wallace, Perriman’s closest friend on the team, also noted that Perriman is handling the situation well.
“In a situation like that, you can’t feel sorry for yourself,” Wallace said. “All that’s going to do is make you get mad, make you get more angry and make you want to play harder and go harder. I think that’s what he’s done. He responded well. I haven’t seen him pout, not one time. Obviously, I know he’s upset because of the situation, but at the same time, I think he reacted to it as best as he could. He’s been positive, he’s still having fun, he’s been working hard. He’s been doing good.
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“I think it will work for him. I don’t know what his test is but God is testing him. I think he’s going to be fine. He’s been through so much that I think when it does happen, it’s going to happen in a crazy, big way for him. I’m excited to see that happen. I think I want it to happen for him more than he wants it for himself.”