First, last looks
NEW ORLEANS — There was only one place for the first play to go. Breshad Perriman had waited months for this moment and Ravens coach John Harbaugh didn’t want him to have to wait any longer.
Perriman, who jogged onto the field in an NFL game for the first time and promptly bent to tug at the turf, lined up to the left of quarterback Ryan Mallett for the Ravens’ first offensive play against the New Orleans Saints on Thursday night at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. He sprinted about 8 yards down the field and Season opener Sept. 11, 1 p.m. TV: Ch. 13 Radio: 97.9 FM, 1090 AM INSIDE: Regulars sit; Terrance West appears to have made team stopped, Mallett’s throw arriving almost immediately.
His first NFL catch went for 9 yards and Perriman, the team’s first-round pick in 2015, commemorated the moment by pointing to the sky. On the next play, Perriman ran a slant and reached a little behind him to catch a pass from Mallett for a 16-yard gain.
“I didn’t expect that to happen, but God willing, it did happen,” Perriman, in a television interview during the third quarter, said of immediate action. “That really gave me a boost as far as the rest of the game.”
Perriman’s NFL debut — and his first game of any kind since he played for Central Florida against North Carolina State in the now-defunct Bitcoin Bowl on Dec. 26, 2014 — overshadowed the battles for the last couple of roster spots that typically occur in the final preseason game.
The Ravens beat the Saints, 23-14, to finish the preseason 4-0 for the second time in three years and sixth time in team history. Perriman played midway through the second quarter, watching the rest of the game from the sideline. He finished with two catches for 25 yards on four targets. Mallett seemedto have a small windowtothread the ball into Perriman for a big play down the seam, but the ball was broken up. He tried to connect on a wide receiver screen to Perriman in the second quarter, but the ball hit off the second-year player’s hands.
Some rust on Perriman was evident and expected. However, he seemed to get through the game healthy, which, along with continuing to get acclimated to the offense and the speed of the game, was the primary goal.
“It went real well, I think,” Perriman said. “I know I have a lot to work on.”
Perriman missed his entire rookie season after he strained the PCL in his right knee in the team’s first full-squad training camp practice in 2015. The development left him depressed, and he withdrew from the team. Harbaugh acknowledged that Perriman was hard to communicate with because he was so down.
A difficult offseason followed a lost rookie year. Perriman’s closest friend on the Ravens, cornerback Tray Walker, was killed in a motorbike accident in March. Perriman’s father, Brett, a former NFL receiver, suffered a stroke.
The health of father and son improved by the time Perriman reported to Owings Mills for the start of the offseason workout program. The wide receiver was making plays on the field and felt like himself again. Then, he suffered a partially torn ACL in his left knee in the final organized team activity.
Perriman avoided total reconstructive knee surgery, which would have wiped out his sophomore season, too. There still was some uncertainty when he would return, although Harbaugh maintained from the beginning that Perriman should be ready to play by the Sept. 11 regular-season opener against the Buffalo Bills at M&T Bank Stadium.
Thursday night’s performance suggests things are headed in that direction, and it was a nice reward for Perriman, who made his debut in the city where his father started his 10-year playing career.
As for the rest of the Ravens, the
Defensive tackle Michael Pierce (78), an undrafted rookie out of Samford, celebrates after strip-sacking Saints backup quarterback Luke McCown and recovering the ball in the end zone for a first-half touchdown to give the Ravens a 13-6 lead. Pierce also had a sack.
Ravens wide receiver Breshad Perriman, left, and Saints cornerback P.J. Williams dive for a first-half pass Thursday night.