The “X” is back.
After three years out of the NFL, Ravens wide receiver Dez Bryant scored his first touchdown since Dec. 10, 2017 — a span of 1,106 days — in the second quarter of Sunday’s 40-14 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars at M&T Bank Stadium.
Bryant made a sliding 11-yard touchdown catch near the left sideline in the end zone on a pass from quarterback Lamar Jackson, his only reception of the afternoon. Bryant quickly hopped up and crossed his arms in front of his chest for his signature “X” celebration, and Jackson threw it up himself as he congratulated the veteran receiver.
“I had to hold back my tears,” Bryant, wearing an “X” chain and holding the ball he scored with, said after the game. “It was very emotional. That love is real. I’m not joking when I say that, these guys here, they are ’100′. They are amazing, phenomenal people. Win, lose or draw, I swear it’s love in my heart for Baltimore. Forever.”
Several members of the defense came off the sideline to congratulate Bryant, who hugged Ravens coach John Harbaugh after the play.
“I feel like it’s been a while coming,” Harbaugh said. “He’s worked hard; he sure earned it. Lamar made a great play to extend it, and he made a great play to run the scramble drill and get open, coming back in the end zone. So, [I was] just happy to see it. I don’t know if I could describe the emotions. Just joy, I guess, would be the best description of it.”
The Ravens brought Bryant to Baltimore for a workout in late August, but he left without a contract. The team then signed Bryant to the practice squad Oct. 27 after a second workout with the team. One month later, Bryant was signed to the 53-man roster.
It’s been a trying three years — and frankly, month — for Bryant. The 32-year-old signed with the New Orleans Saints in the middle of the 2018 season but tore his Achilles tendon in his second practice with the team, sending him into an arduous rehabilitation.
Bryant said that he had no intentions of returning to the NFL while he was away from the game, but his youngest daughter, Isabella, gave him the inspiration for his comeback. He said he was going to gift her the ball he scored with.
Bryant finally made it back onto an NFL roster and had the chance to play against his former team, the Dallas Cowboys, on Dec. 8. But a positive COVID-19 test at M&T Bank Stadium made him ineligible for the highly anticipated reunion just 30 minutes before kickoff.
In the coming days, Bryant would test negative, but NFL protocols forced him to miss the team’s following game against the Cleveland Browns last Monday night. Bryant described the week in self-quarantine as a “roller coaster” — at one point, he wrote on Twitter that he was quitting the rest of the season — but he credited Harbaugh and his teammates, such as running back Mark Ingram II, for guiding him through a tough stretch.
“His personality brings a lot out of everybody — his energy, the presence he brings,” wide receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown said of Bryant. “So, just for him to get that touchdown, we were excited. Everybody was throwing up the ‘X.’ I’m happy for him.”
- Cornerback Davontae Harris left Sunday’s game with a thigh injury and did not return. The Ravens played without cornerbacks Jimmy Smith (ribs/shoulder) and Marcus Peters (calf), but Anthony Averett (ankle) and Tramon Williams (thigh) played after being listed as questionable.
- Jackson joined Michael Vick (2004 and 2006) as the only quarterbacks in NFL history to record multiple seasons with 800 or more rushing yards. Jackson is the first to do so in back-to-back seasons.
- Harbaugh secured his 10th winning season in 13 years as coach of the Ravens.