OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) — Nearly 19 months since he last took the field for an NFL game, Odell Beckham Jr. feels like a rookie again.
“As far as excitement, I feel like this is my first game,” the 30-year-old Beckham said Wednesday. “The whole thing feels like a reset for me. There's been a lot of deja vu moments of little things that's happened, that just kind of feels reminiscent of my rookie year. Just the feeling of excitement that I have to play football, and a new opportunity, a new life.”
Beckham's return is set for Sunday when the Baltimore Ravens host Houston. He hasn't played since the Super Bowl two seasons ago. That day, he was awfully close to the pinnacle of a football player's career. He caught a touchdown pass in a game his Los Angeles Rams would eventually win.
However, he didn't even make it to halftime before a major knee injury forced him out of the game — and basically out of the sport for a while.
“It's been a long time in my mind, it's been a long time in reality,” Beckham said. “I don't know what emotions will be running through me. I know I'll be excited to play football again.”
Coach John Harbaugh said there’s been no discussion of keeping Beckham on a limited snap count against the Texans.
In recent years, the Ravens have leaned heavily on tight end Mark Andrews in the passing game, but he was limited in practice Wednesday with an ankle injury.
If Baltimore's wide receiver group is significantly improved this season, the Ravens may have a chance to show it immediately in Week 1. And Beckham is certainly the most accomplished member of that unit.
Beckham surpassed 1,000 yards receiving in five of his first six NFL seasons with the New York Giants and Cleveland Browns, wowing fans along the way with sensational catches and earning second-team All-Pro honors in 2015 and 2016.
Then a knee injury ended his 2020 season after seven games, and he was released by Cleveland in the middle of the 2021 season. After signing with the Rams that November, he caught nine passes for 113 yards — his first 100-yard receiving game since October 2019 — against San Francisco in the NFC title game.
In the Super Bowl, Beckham opened the scoring with a 17-yard touchdown catch, but he left after a noncontact injury to his left knee. The Rams were able to win without him.
Beckham missed all of last season as well. He caught on with Ravens this offseason, when Baltimore was desperate to add help at wide receiver. So far his health seems to be holding up.
“I just talked to him coming off the field,” Harbaugh said. “He's very aware of the fact that he hasn't played in a long time and how important it his, how excited he is, how much he's put into getting himself back to this point.”
In addition to signing Beckham and drafting receiver Zay Flowers in the first round, the Ravens also changed offensive coordinators, bringing in Todd Monken. The idea, obviously, is to help star quarterback Lamar Jackson play his absolute best. Jackson is also coming off a knee injury that kept him out toward the end of last season.
Now Jackson and Beckham have their first chance to put this new partnership on display.
“I know he's passionate about the game,” Jackson said. “He just can't wait to show people in the world what he's still able to do.”
NOTES: CB Marlon Humphrey did not practice Wednesday as he recovers from foot surgery. Aside from him and Andrews, the only other player listed on Baltimore's injury report was tackle Ronnie Stanley, who was limited in practice with his own ankle issues.
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Noah Trister, The Associated Press