More surprising than this week's news that the Baltimore Ravens signed veteran wide receiver Dez Bryant was the news that the Ravens signed Dez Bryant to their practice squad.
For those unfamiliar, being signed to an NFL team's practice squad is like being put on the junior-varsity roster in high school, or being sent to the minor league affiliate of a Major League Baseball team. For pro wrestling fans, it's like WWE signing a big-name free agent and putting them in NXT.
It means Bryant is part of the Ravens' organization, but he's not on the official 53-man roster and he won't suit up for Baltimore in a real NFL game until the coaches decide to promote him to the main roster.
The practice squad is typically not where you find a three-time Pro Bowler and one-time All-Pro who once led the NFL in receiving touchdowns and cracked the 1,200-yard barrier three times as a legit No. 1 receiver for a high-profile team like the Dallas Cowboys.
But that's where Bryant finds himself, three years since he played his last NFL game and two years since he was last on a team.
After the Cowboys released Bryant following the 2017 season, he didn't get picked up by another team until midway through the 2018 schedule. After he signed with the New Orleans Saints, Bryant tore his Achilles in practice before he was able to play in a game.
Since then he's been working to come back to the NFL, but the 31-year-old Bryant didn't get signed until almost halfway through the 2020 season.
Harbaugh to see what Bryant can do before Ravens promote him
Ravens head coach John Harbaugh is trying to not make a big deal out of the acquisition, which makes sense because coaches (and the media) rarely make a big deal out of practice-squad signees.
Speaking about Bryant to Pro Football Talk, Harbaugh said, "We'll just see where he's at. 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. It’s just really that simple."
Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson sounded a little more enthusiastic.
"Oh man, it’s tremendous,” Jackson was quoted by PFT. “We just have to see what he’s capable of. I see him on IG (Instagram) a lot doing his thing. He’s grinding [and] getting after it."
Jackson is understandably excited about adding someone with Bryant's resume to an offense that could use a spark. The Ravens are still 5-1, but they aren't as explosive as they were last season when they were the AFC's best team in the regular season. Baltimore doesn't have any consistently productive wide receivers outside of Marquise "Hollywood" Brown. That's in large part why the Ravens were one of the teams linked to Antonio Brown before AB signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Bryant isn't old and he seems to be healthy, but he hasn't played in a while. Rust is going to be a factor, but there's still plenty of time left this season to work him into the Ravens' lineup and get comfortable before the playoffs.Published 30 Oct 2020, 08:40 IST