It might not be unreasonable to make the claim that today, David Reed felt like he was completely a part of the Ravens for the first time since Dec. 19 of last year.
Reed injured his left wrist during that December game against the Saints, and the wide receiver was unable to make it back on the field for the Ravens' final two regular season games or either of their postseason contests last season.
The injury required offseason surgery to repair a torn ligament, and after missing the first two and a half weeks of training camp as he recovered from the procedure, Reed was finally activated off the Physically Unable to Perform list today. This afternoon, the 2010 fifth-round pick tossed on his No. 16 jersey and took part in his first healthy practice in nearly eight months.
"Felt real good," Reed said following this afternoon's session. "Felt real good to be back out there with the fellas, pushing, working, bleeding a little bit with the guys. It feels good to be back part of the team and everything."
At this point, Reed considers himself a "full-go", saying he feels 100 percent healthy, although he acknowledges that it's "up in the air" whether he plays in Friday's preseason game against the Chiefs. Reed got reps with the second-team offense today, and showed off the impressive speed and route running ability that led Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome to pull the trigger on selecting Reed in last April's draft.
Still, the 24-year-old admitted that he was a little rusty out on the field today, and said it will take a little while to get completely back into the flow.
"That's a starting point," Reed said. "Start day one, now (I've) got to build on that."
Special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg said today that Reed has a "leg up" in the battle for the kick return job because of his experience and the strong season Reed had last year. As a rookie, Reed led the NFL in kick return average (29.3 yards per return), and he recorded a franchise-record 103-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in a Week 14 win over the Texans.
Reed will need time to adjust to the new kickoff rules, however, which move kicks from the 30-yard line up to the 35.
"That new rule they've got kind of sucks," Reed said. "It's going to be a lot (of kicks) down in (the end zone), but I'm taking them out."
How far deep into the end zone is too deep for Reed to consider running a kick out?
"Probably when my back foot is on that back line," Reed said with a smile. "Otherwise, if I've got it going forward, I'm taking it out."
While it appears very likely Reed will be able to make an impact on special teams, the same can't necessary be said about his role on the offensive side of the ball. While Reed has been out the last couple weeks, rookie wide receivers Torrey Smith and Tandon Doss have been getting tons of reps, often with the first-team offense. In addition, undrafted rookie LaQuan Williams has impressed, and veteran wideouts Brandon Jones, Marcus Smith and Justin Harper have gotten a chance to show their stuff for the coaching staff, as well.
Reed, who saw very minimal offensive action last year (he didn't have a single reception, and had one rush for 15 yards) hopes to work his way into playing time behind starting receivers Anquan Boldin and Lee Evans, but knows he has an uphill climb.
"Of course, them dudes (have) been out here putting in that work, so I've got to come back and establish myself as being in there again," Reed said. "So, I've just got to compete.
"I'm trying to bring whatever I can to the table. I'm trying to help the offense out, help the team out overall, anyway I can ... That's what I am - I'm a receiver. So, I want to be in there."
Asked how Reed might fit into the mix at wide receiver, offensive coordinator Cam Cameron chose to delay judgement.
"We're going to have to make some decisions in a couple of weeks," Cameron said. "We don't have to make any decisions today. We'll let him improve, and let the other guys continue to improve and hopefully build some depth. We're putting together a nice group of young receivers."