OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Dez Bryant is close to fulfilling one of the NFL’s most unlikely comebacks.
Bryant, a three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver, was elevated off the Baltimore Ravens’ practice squad to their active roster on Saturday, a day before their game at the Indianapolis Colts.
Bryant’s 531 career receptions would be the most by any wide receiver before missing two full seasons and then returning to the NFL, according to Elias Sports Bureau research.
“I told you I’m covered confident and thankful..” Bryant wrote on Twitter minutes after news broke of his practice squad promotion Saturday. “I don’t care who hate it.”
Bryant, 31, hasn’t played a game since Dec. 31, 2017 — a span of 1,043 days come Sunday. He can become the second Pro Bowl wide receiver to miss two full seasons and then return to the NFL since the 1970 merger, according to Elias data. Josh Gordon was the first in 2017.
The addition of Bryant to the active roster comes at a time when Baltimore is uncertain about the status of Devin Duvernay, who was the team’s No. 3 wide receiver last Sunday after playing 37 snaps. Duvernay was added to the injury report Friday after being limited with a thigh injury and is considered questionable.
With Chris Moore (thigh) being placed on injured reserve Saturday, Bryant is one of five healthy wide receivers on the active roster, joining Marquise Brown, Miles Boykin, Willie Snead IV and James Proche.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh was noncommittal Friday when asked if Bryant could get elevated this week or in the near future.
“When we feel like he’s ready to come up, in shape, knows the offense well enough and has enough compatibility with Lamar [Jackson] on enough plays, then we’ll bring him up,” Harbaugh said. “So, when it happens … I think it will happen. I don’t think it’s something you want to force-feed in there. So, we’ll just have to see as we go.”
Bryant has shown strong persistence in returning to the NFL. He worked out for Baltimore in August, but he left without a contract because he was told to improve his conditioning, a source said.
The Ravens invited back Bryant for a second workout on Oct. 28 and signed the former Dallas Cowboys star receiver to the practice squad. Bryant spent the past two weeks participating as one of the opposing wide receivers on Baltimore’s scout team before getting promoted Saturday.
Bryant provides experience and size to one of the worst wide receiver groups in the NFL. The Ravens’ wide receivers rank last in the NFL in catches (117) and receiving yards (1,367) through eight weeks of the regular season.
In eight seasons, Bryant was the Cowboys’ top playmaker, totaling 7,459 yards and a franchise-record 73 touchdown catches.
On Wednesday, Lamar Jackson praised Bryant’s route running and hands.
“He’s dialed in to the playbook. He wants to compete,” Jackson said. “I just can’t wait for him to get out there with us on Sundays.”
After Saturday’s call-up, it looks like Jackson won’t have to wait much longer.