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Rookie Janarion Grant grateful for shot at returning kicks and punts for Ravens

Two days before the Ravens’ second preseason game against the Los Angeles Rams, Janarion Grant committed a major faux pas.

In a joint practice Tuesday with Los Angeles, the rookie wide receiver and return specialist evaded the Rams’ coverage unit and took a punt to the end zone. But before he crossed the goal line, Grant taunted the opposing team with the football, which earned him an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and a very public tongue-lashing from special teams coordinator and associate head coach Jerry Rosburg.

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Despite the error, Grant lined up as the Ravens’ primary punt returner in Thursday night’s 33-7 victory, and the undrafted free agent out of Rutgers was appreciative of the gesture.

“I was surprised,” he said Sunday of filling a role previously handled by Tim White, who did not play for unspecified reasons. “Just a rookie mistake. We’re not supposed to do that, and I learned from that. I’m not going to do that in a game, and you’ve got to practice what you’ve been taught. So you just have to keep that in mind and be mindful of yourself and your teammates because you don’t want to cost your teammates.”

The 5-foot-10, 173-pound Grant returned one kickoff for 26 yards, fair-caught two punts, and had one punt return negated by a holding penalty on safety Kai Nacua. Grant also caught two of four passes thrown his way for 32 yards.

Grant left the Scarlet Knights as their all-time leader in kick return yards and ranked fourth in punt return yards, and coach John Harbaugh said Grant has shown some promise.

“I thought he did well,” Harbaugh said. “One return, he took it outside when he should have just gone north. He’s done that twice now. But the other two returns, he got it upfield and did very well. Made some people miss, caught the ball well. Seemed like he did well.”

Grant was a bit harsher in his assessment of his performance.

“I think I didn’t do well enough,” he said. “I still need to get into the end zone. That’s all I’m looking to do.”

Grant is still listed as the backup to White, who returned to practice Saturday and could assume the return duties in the team’s next preseason game at the Indianapolis Colts on Aug. 20. Nonetheless, Grant said he is thankful for any chance to prove what he can do for the team.

“It means that as a young guy coming in, they’re starting to trust me more, just being out there, especially with the ones,” he said. “You know that you’ve got guys coming at you and trying to hit you hard, and it takes guts to stand there and take the hits or call for a fair catch. So I really appreciate them for believing in me and knowing that I can go out there and do what I can do.”

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