"I'm just excited to be here, excited to be in this offense and to play with these guys," Chris Givens said. "It's a great opportunity for me. I'm just looking forward to taking advantage." (Kevin Richardson)
Chris Givens had an inkling that something could happen about two weeks ago when his former teammate at Wake Forest, Michael Campanaro, sent him a text message that said his name had been brought up by Ravens coaches.
At first, Givens dismissed it as meaningless chatter. However, when he was essentially held out of practice all last week, the wide receiver knew his days with the St. Louis Rams were numbered. It wasn't until last Saturday, though, when he definitively heard where he was going.
He embraced the news that he had been traded to the Ravens for a conditional 2018 seventh-round NFL draft pick with a mixture of excitement and relief.
"It's been a great couple of days," Givens said Wednesday, following his first full practice with the Ravens. "I'm just excited to be here, excited to be in this offense and to play with these guys. It's a great opportunity for me. I'm just looking forward to taking advantage."
Badly needing some speed on the outside with rookie first-round draft pick Breshad Perriman sidelined with a knee injury, the Ravens had been monitoring Givens' fall down the wide receiver depth chart in St. Louis. They had spoken to the Rams about the 25-year-old before losing two of their top targets, Campanaro and Steve Smith Sr., to back injuries in last Thursday's victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
With Kamar Aiken, Marlon Brown and rookie Darren Waller the only healthy receivers on the active roster, the Ravens decided to make the move. They're working around-the-clock to get Givens comfortable in the offense so he can make an impact in Sunday's game against the Cleveland Browns at M&T Bank Stadium.
"Chris will be a part of what we're doing on Sunday," coach John Harbaugh said. "How much he plays depends on how well he does. I'm really hopeful that he plays a lot. It'll be up to him and how well he can learn what we're doing."
Following Wednesday's practice, Givens stayed on the field for an extra 15 minutes and ran routes for quarterback Joe Flacco. The session drew quite a crowd, as offensive coordinator Marc Trestman, quarterbacks coach Marty Mornhinweg, wide receiver coach Bobby Engram, senior offensive assistant Craig Ver Steeg and offensive quality control coach Andy Bischoff were on the field with Flacco and Givens.
"He can definitely run, he can catch the football, he can run routes," Flacco said when asked about his first impression of Givens. "The biggest challenge is just going to be to get him up to speed and create some kind of comfort level before we go out in a game and make it work.
"You can always go out there in a game and make it work game day, but you'd obviously like to have some kind of comfort level before you get to that point, just so you have a little bit of confidence going into it."
Givens promised that the Ravens are getting a motivated and unburdened player who is intent on proving that the Rams erred in not giving him more offensive snaps. The Rams' leading receiver as a rookie in 2012, Givens' productivity and playing time dropped every year. At the time of the trade, he had one catch for seven yards in three games and was playing less than 30 percent of the Rams' offensive snaps.
Asked if he had a chip on his shoulder, Givens said, "Oh yeah, I'd call it a potato.
"It was very frustrating. I knew I was a guy that could complement the team and play well. I don't know if it wasn't the right fit or they liked other guys or whatever the case may be, because after the first year, my opportunities just went down."
Givens had 42 catches his first year, but that number dropped to 34 in his second season and 11 in his third. Nobody questioned his speed and Givens did average 16.3 yards per reception with the Rams, but St. Louis had a hard time getting him the ball when he was on the field.
There were questions about Givens' route running and it didn't help the speedy receiver that the Rams lost starting quarterback Sam Bradford to season-ending injuries in back-to-back years. But the Rams clearly weren't sold on Givens, a fourth-round draft pick in 2012, as a front-line receiving threat.
They signed Kenny Britt, who played under head coach Jeff Fisher in Tennessee, as a free agent. They drafted former Dunbar standout Tavon Austin in the first round in 2013 and Stedman Bailey in the third round that same year. They also still looked for opportunities to get Brian Quick, a second-round pick in 2012, more involved in the offense.
Despite having a strong preseason, Givens entered this year as the team's fourth receiver and immersed in a situation that had clearly beaten him down. He called the trade to the Ravens a "relief."
"It just felt like a whole weight was lifted off my shoulders," Givens said. "Now, I can just play football, not worry about anything and just focus on my craft and being the best that I can be."
Givens said he isn't worried about learning the Ravens' offense, maintaining that he'll pick it up quickly just by going to work every day. He's already excited about catching passes from Flacco, who is considered one of the best deep-ball throwers in the NFL.
"I love Joe," Givens said. "I've watched Joe for years, he has a strong arm, and I feel like our talents match up and we can complement each other pretty well."