In the first NFL game of his career, Tim White returned three kickoffs for 78 yards and three punts for 12 yards in the Ravens’ 27-14 win over the Denver Broncos on Sunday. Modest numbers, but the second-year pro held onto the ball and generally felt at ease in his debut.
“I was just encouraged about me being comfortable out there,” he said Thursday. “That’s always a good thing. You don’t want to be out there and feel uncomfortable. There’s a lot of things I need to get better at and work on. I felt like I fielded the ball well. I didn’t have any issues with that. There were probably a couple decisions that could’ve helped put the team in a better position. … I just need to be better overall with the little details.”
White did not have to worry too much about the details in the team’s first two games because he was a member of the practice squad watching Janarion Grant assume the role of return specialist. But after Grant, an undrafted rookie, fumbled a punt return for the second time in as many games, the Ravens released him Saturday and replaced him with White, an undrafted rookie himself in 2017.
“It’s what I anticipated only because I always try to stay ready,” he said of the promotion. “I prepare myself every day like I’m going to go out and play. Even when I was on the practice squad, I was still preparing like I was going to play. I look at myself as a starter, and that’s not going to change as long as I’m here. So I just prepare to be better every day.”
White’s longest kick return traveled 37 yards, while his shortest went only 18. Special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg speculated that White’s 18-yard return might have gained more ground if not for a blown blocking assignment.
“He ran it really well and fast, and I think it was his first time in a regular-season National Football League game, and I look forward to better things from him,” Rosburg said. “He had a lot of situations to deal with in regard to the punt returns. There were a lot of short punts on the ground and situations where we had to protect our coverage, our blocking. I thought he handled his business in good fashion.”
White sat out his entire rookie season after tearing a ligament in his thumb in a preseason game. But he said he felt calm playing in his first NFL game.
“I wasn’t nervous,” he said. “I was just ready to get out there. You have guys around you that you want to inspire. As a kick returner or a punt returner, you want to be that spark. So anytime you get the ball in your hands, you want to ignite the team and ignite the crowd.”