The social media rollout for wide receiver Dez Bryant, whom the Ravens signed on Tuesday, was not customary for a typical practice squad player. But Bryant is not a typical practice squad player.
When a wide receiver with over 7,000 career receiving yards is added to a team — albeit its practice squad — that ranks second-to-last in the NFL in passing offense, intrigue follows.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh, who amid frequent reports about the team’s interest in Bryant remained tight-lipped, had little to say even after the transaction became official.
“He’s going to be on the practice squad right now and we’ll see how it progresses from there,” Harbaugh said Wednesday on a video conference call.
When asked later what he needed to see from Bryant to feel comfortable with him suiting up for his first regular-season game in almost three years, Harbaugh responded, "We’ll just see where he’s at. He hasn’t played for how many years? So we’ll see where he’s at. I mean, there’s a lot to learn. He looked good in the workout. I don’t think you need to make too much more of it than that. He’s on our practice squad roster, which means he’s available to us.
“When and if he’s ready to go, he’ll be out there. It’s just really that simple.”
While defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, whom the team acquired in a trade last week from the Minnesota Vikings, practiced Wednesday for the first time as a Raven in preparation for Sunday’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, it seems unlikely that Bryant will be on the game day roster.
Bryant, 31, who also practiced Wednesday, hasn’t played in an NFL game since the end of the 2017 regular season. He was wearing a No. 11 jersey, likely a sign that he was participating on the scout team and imitating Pittsburgh Steelers rookie wide receiver Chase Claypool.
“It’s tremendous. We’ve just got to see what he’s capable of,” quarterback Lamar Jackson said of adding Bryant. “I see him on [Instagram] a lot, doing his thing, [he’s] grinding, getting after it. Mr. Ozzie [Newsome], Eric [DeCosta], those guys did a great job upstairs bringing him in. We’ve just got to see if he’s ready, see what he’s capable of and go from there.”
While any on-field impact from Bryant might not arrive for weeks to come, he and his 6-foot-2, 220-pound frame could help the Ravens' downfield passing threat, where Jackson has completed just five of 21 pass attempts in which the target depth is at least 20 yards.
Cornerback Jimmy Smith likened Bryant’s potential to another Ravens receiver who had success in his 30s.
“He’s the X-factor,” Smith said with a smile, throwing up Bryant’s famous “X” celebration. “I’ve been playing against him since college. You know what he’s capable of, a big body. When he’s covered, he still catches the ball. So just bringing an element of that type of player — kind of like when we had Anquan Boldin back in the day — just makes those great, contested catches and has that attitude, that dog attitude that you want on your offense. So, he’s only going to help us.”
Baltimore Sun reporter Jonas Shaffer contributed to this article.