First, last looks

Baltimore Sun - - SPORTS - By Jeff Zre­biec

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.

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