OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Upon seeing Breshad Perriman take part in his first full-squad practice in over a year, Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs couldn’t resist teasing the second-year wide receiver.
“Who’s the new guy?” the boisterous veteran asked during the early portion of Tuesday’s workout. “Can he play?”
The second question is the one everyone — the Ravens and their fans — would like to finally explore as health has been the lone focus since Perriman injured his right knee on the first full day of training camp last year and missed his entire rookie season. A partially-torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in June was initially feared to be another season-ending blow, but Perriman has returned less than 2 1/2 months after the injury. Taking part in only the individual portion of Tuesday’s practice, he moved well while running routes and catching passes, even snagging a couple with one hand.
The 6-foot-2, 215-pound Central Florida product can’t wait until he no longer has to answer the questions about his knees and can instead prove to the Ravens that they were wise to take him with the 26th overall selection of the 2015 draft. In his very limited practice time over the last two years, you can see exactly why the organization was so excited to take the speedy Perriman, but he has much to prove beyond the prerequisite of finally staying on the field.
“I am very eager. I feel like it is coming real soon,” Perriman said. “I know that it will be worth the wait.”
Unlike last year when general manager Ozzie Newsome viewed the rookie as the immediate replacement for free-agent departure Torrey Smith and had no contingency plans in the event of an injury, the Ravens secured other deep-ball options this offseason by signing veteran Mike Wallace and drafting University of Cincinnati product Chris Moore in the fourth round. Baltimore is hardly doomed if Perriman doesn’t make an impact in 2016, but he brings the kind of upside a team desires when trying to rebound from a down season.
Throughout the summer, head coach John Harbaugh has spoken about the need to find play-makers on both sides of the ball to make the difference in close games. Perriman’s rare combination of size and speed fits that description perfectly — at least on paper.
The clock is ticking for Perriman to both get back into football shape — he hasn’t played in a real game since Dec. 26, 2014 — and get on the same page with quarterback Joe Flacco for the start of the regular season, but he fully expects to be on the field when the Ravens welcome Buffalo to town on Sept. 11.
“Most definitely. I don’t have any doubt in my mind that I [will] be ready,” Perriman said. “I’m attacking it right now like I will be ready, and I think I will.”
Even more than the typical first-round pick, Perriman will be under the microscope.
The cruelest critics have already declared the 22-year-old a bust, waiting for his next injury and spewing venom on social media as though he wanted to be hurt. Perriman says he tries to ignore most of the negativity, but it’s also fueled him to work harder to get back on the field.
“It is just about blocking that out and focusing on yourself and getting healthy,” said wide receiver Michael Campanaro, who has dealt with much criticism regarding his own health over the last couple years. “We all know what Breshad is capable of. He has the right mindset. He works hard, and sometimes injuries come with the game. It hasn’t killed his confidence or anything. He is going to be ready to go.”
A healthy Perriman hopes to finally answer that next question of whether he can play.