Needing to boost their blocking ability at tight end, the Ravens activated 2015 fifth-round pick Nick Boyle and waived cornerback Asa Jackson ahead of Sunday’s game with the Cincinnati Bengals.
After serving a 10-game suspension for his second violation of the NFL’s performance-enhancing drug policy in the last year, Boyle returned to practice this week and will fill in for the injured Crockett Gillmore, who is expected to miss his fourth straight game with a thigh injury. Gillmore’s absence has left Baltimore without a true blocking tight end, leaving reserve lineman James Hurst to serve in that capacity periodically.
Boyle is expected to mainly serve as a blocker, but he showed good hands as a rookie, catching 18 passes for 153 yards in 11 games.
“He came back in really good shape — very impressive shape,” head coach John Harbaugh said Friday. “It looks like he’s been working really hard, but there is a process of knocking off the rust for sure. It’s been 10 weeks, 11 weeks since he’s been in a football practice.”
Just a few months ago, Boyle’s career with the Ravens appeared to be all but over as Benjamin Watson, Dennis Pitta, Maxx Williams, and Gillmore were all ahead of him on the preseason depth chart. However, season-ending injuries to Watson and Williams opened the door for both Boyle and Darren Waller — who served a four-game ban to begin the season after testing positive for marijuana — to have roles following their respective suspensions.
A third violation of the performance-enhancing drug policy would result in at least a two-year ban for Boyle. The University of Delaware product understands this is likely his last chance with the Ravens and could be his last to play in the NFL.
“I’m not going to mess up again. I’ll put that out there fair and clear,” Boyle said Wednesday. “It was a hard thing, and I thank them for allowing me to even come back here and allowing me to have a chance to maybe play here. I’m very grateful for that.”
Jackson, a 2012 fifth-round pick of the Ravens, was re-signed to the Baltimore practice squad last month and had also spent time with Cincinnati and Arizona over the last calendar year. The reserve defensive back was elevated to the 53-man roster on Nov. 15, but he was a healthy inactive for Sunday’s loss to Dallas.
Though cornerback Jimmy Smith is expected to miss his second straight game with a back issue, the healthy return of Shareece Wright from a hamstring injury last week made Jackson expendable.