CLEVELAND — Ravens first-round draft pick Hayden Hurst made his NFL debut Sunday against the Cleveland Browns after missing the first four weeks of the season because of a fractured foot.
The rookie tight end from South Carolina caught his first NFL pass on the Ravens’ second possession of the game, a 7-yard gain that set up a 44-yard field goal by Justin Tucker. But he played a scant role the rest of the way, with just one more pass thrown in his direction.
With Hurst and cornerback Jimmy Smith back in the game-day lineup, the Ravens had to shuffle their inactive list.
They waived cornerback Darious Williams on Saturday to make room for Smith, who’s returning from a four-game suspension. And they announced that defensive tackle Michael Pierce, quarterback Robert Griffin III, linebacker Tim Williams, cornerback Anthony Averett, center Hroniss Grasu, defensive tackle Zach Sieler and wide receiver Jordan Lasley would be inactive for the Browns game.
Pierce was the only mild surprise, but he missed practice Friday with a foot injury. He was also inactive in Week 3 against the Denver Broncos because of a foot injury.
His absence was mitigated by the return of defensive tackle Willie Henry, who missed the first four games as he recovered from hernia surgery.
Hurst had practiced the past two weeks and said he felt he could have played last Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
He doesn’t expect to play tentatively when he finally takes the field. “Once I get out there, I’m just going to let it rip,” he said Wednesday.
He’s returning to a team that’s already brimming over with productive pass catchers. Eleven Ravens, including tight ends Nick Boyle, Mark Andrews and Maxx Williams, caught passes in the 26-14 win over the Steelers. Boyle, Andrews and Williams have combined for 31 catches, 342 yards and a touchdown on the season.
During the preseason, Hurst showed more mobility and better hands in traffic than any of them.
The Browns deactivated quarterback Drew Stanton, wide receiver Damion Ratley, defensive backs Tevierre Thomas and Denzel Rice, linebacker James Burgess Jr., offensive lineman Earl Watford and defensive lineman Chad Thomas. … Linebacker C.J. Mosley, safety Tony Jefferson, running back Buck Allen and right tackle James Hurst represented the Ravens for the coin toss, which the Browns won.