Jimmy Smith knows what Dez Bryant can bring to a team. The Ravens cornerback has seen Bryant expose defenses throughout the wideout’s NFL career to the tune of 7,459 receiving yards and 73 touchdowns in eight seasons.
But it goes further back than that, too. It goes back to a 2008 matchup at Folsom Field, with Smith’s Colorado facing Bryant’s Oklahoma State. Midway through the second quarter of the Cowboys’ 30-17 win, Bryant caught a pass over the middle of the field, outstripping defenders in the process — Smith among them. He cut up field, began to stumble, and launched himself toward the pilon for a score.
So when Smith was asked Wednesday what a healthy Bryant could produce for Baltimore — and it has been quite some time since Bryant was healthy — Smith smiled at the thought. Then he threw up Bryant’s signature ‘X’ celebration with his arms, an homage to the three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver who’s now on the Ravens’ practice squad.
“Dez is the ‘X-Factor,’” Smith said. “I’ve been playing against him since college, so you know what’s he’s capable of. A big body — when he’s covered, he still catches the ball. Just bringing in 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. He’s only going to help us.”
For now, Bryant is only on the practice squad. During Wednesday’s training session, Bryant wore the No. 11 jersey, mimicking Pittsburgh’s Chase Claypool. He’s helping Baltimore how he can right now. In the future, if all goes accordingly, he could feature in his first NFL game since 2017.
After the Dallas Cowboys released Bryant in April 2018, the 31-year-old struggled to find a team. He latched onto New Orleans midway through the 2018 season, but Bryant tore his ACL two days after signing with the Saints.
He’s healthy once more. But there’s no guarantee that will translate into an opportunity.
“We’ll just see where he’s at,” coach John Harbaugh said. “He hasn’t played for how many years? So, we’ll see where he’s at. 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. So, when and if he’s ready to go, he’ll be out there. So, it’s just really that simple.”
The last time Bryant played in an NFL game, quarterback Lamar Jackson still attended Louisville. But if all goes well with Bryant’s development, Jackson may have a new target to throw to in Baltimore.
“Oh man, it’s tremendous,” Jackson said. “We just have to see what he’s capable of. I see him on [Instagram] a lot doing his thing. He’s grinding, getting after it. … We just have to see if he’s ready, see what he’s capable of and go from there.”
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