Nothing has been easy for wide receiver Breshad Perriman since coming to Baltimore.
The soft-spoken wide receiver missed his entire rookie campaign because of a knee injury suffered on the first day of training camp, and faced a rash of criticism for an injury that wasn't his fault and he certainly didn't want. He went down again with a separate knee injury this offseason and missed the bulk of training camp.
Perriman finally got on the field late in the preseason, and the long layoff clearly showed as he worked to find consistency over the first half of the season. Perriman still has plenty of room to grow, but he took a big step in Thursday's win against the Browns where he found the end zone for the first time and had the best all-around game of his young career.
"Oh, man it was big," Perriman said of his touchdown after the 28-7 victory. "It was a complete blessing. I've been working for it for a long time and finally it came today."
Perriman finished with three catches for 64 yards and the touchdown. He also had a 27-yard catch-and-run that put the Ravens in position for a touchdown earlier in the night.
The game displayed the kind of potential the Ravens saw in Perriman when they drafted him with the No. 26 overall pick last season.
"I told him that I am proud of him. He gets so much criticism," veteran receiver Steve Smith Sr. said. "So much energy is put into critiquing and correcting and criticizing coaching that you have to give that same amount of energy to encourage and congratulate."
Perriman has dealt with struggles on and off the field since getting into the NFL. In addition to the injuries, his good friend and teammate Tray Walker passed away in a dirt bike accident in March, and then his father suffered a life-threatening stroke in May.
Those events took a toll on the 23-year-old receiver, and then he also had to put energy into improving on the football field. Through the first eight games of his career, Perriman had 17 catches for 216 yards and no scores.
"All that hardship, basically, and just how long it took to get here and all the work I had to put in and all the stuff I've been through – so, yeah, that does hit your mind for a little bit and then you realize how blessed you are," Perriman said.
In a fitting chain of events symbolic of the start of his career, Perriman had to wait to truly celebrate the touchdown. The officials went to the replay booth to get a second look at the touchdown catch make sure that the ball didn't jar loose as Perriman hit the ground.
The replay certainly brought up bad memories of a touchdown that was wiped off the board against the Washington Redskins. In that Week 5 matchup, Perriman caught the go-ahead touchdown with 32 seconds left on the clock, but officials overturned it because he didn't get his feet down and the Ravens ended up losing the game.
The touchdown stood Thursday night, and Perriman made sure to get the football as a memento.
"For Breshad to go up and get that ball and adjust his body, it was fantastic," Smith said. "That is dramatic. As your first-career touchdown, that is as dramatic as you want it to be. That is a keeper."
The Ravens hope the touchdown is a sign of things to come for Perriman. He's come up with difficult catches the last two weeks, and quarterback Joe Flacco sees growing confidence in his speedy young target.
"That's what it's all about, going out there and proving to yourself that you can do it and making those plays. Any time you're a young guy, and you do those things, it's good in the long run," Flacco said. "And when you go out there, in order to really feel part of the team and feel great about it, it's all about going out there and making plays and showing your teammates that you can do it. I think that will definitely be really, really big for him."