It took three years, but Dez Bryant finally got to throw up the X again.
Bryant scored a touchdown on a sliding 11-yard catch in the first half of the Ravens' game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
It was his first touchdown since Dec. 10, 2017 – 1,106 days ago. Bryant led all NFL wide receivers in touchdowns from 2010 to 2017, but this one will hold a special place in Bryant's career accomplishments.
"I'm being honest. I had to hold back my tears," Bryant said. "It's very emotional."
Bryant has had a long and arduous road back to the NFL after being released by his former Cowboys team of eight years.
After signing with the New Orleans Saints midway through the 2018 season, he suffered an Achilles tear in his first practice. Bryant sat out the entire 2019 season, then decided he still wanted to make a comeback because of his daughter.
Bryant saved his touchdown ball to give to his daughter and couldn't wait to call her after speaking with reporters Sunday.
"After I scored, the first person I thought of was my baby girl," Bryant said. "I'm serious when I tell ya'll, I had no intentions of playing ball. If it wasn't for her, I don't think I'd be out here."
The Ravens worked Bryant out in training camp, then signed him to the practice squad on Oct. 27 and brought him up to the active roster a month later. The adversity didn't end there.
Bryant was salivating over a matchup against his former Cowboys, but the veteran wideout was scratched just before team warmups because of a positive COVID-19 test. It was a tough pill to swallow after working so hard to come back and prove himself.
That night, Bryant was so frustrated that he tweeted "Yeah I'm going to go ahead and call it quits for the rest of the season." He later walked that back and said the support of his coaches and teammates, especially running back Mark Ingram II, was critical.
In his first public comments since, Bryant said it was a "rollercoaster" and thanked Head Coach John Harbaugh, his family and teammates for communicating with him through it.
"It's been real raw love since I stepped into this building," Bryant said. "Baltimore, Maryland has been straight love. It's only right that I give it my all. … When you receive love like that, you've got to man up."
Bryant tested negative in the days following and returned to the Ravens' 53-man roster this week.
Bryant had to work for his touchdown too. Lamar Jackson bought extra time and Bryant stayed active. He mirrored his quarterback as he rolled to the left and broke away from the Jaguars defender to make a nice sliding touchdown grab. Bryant ran about 35 yards for an 11-yard touchdown.
After the score, Bryant got the ball for a keepsake, then got a big hug from Harbaugh. The best word Harbaugh could find to describe the moment was "joy" – not just for Bryant but for the entire team that supported him.
"Gosh, I was just really happy for him. It was one of those moments that you could feel it," Harbaugh said. "We've had a lot of conversations about that, leading up to that. So, I feel like it's been a while coming. He's worked hard; he sure earned it."
"It's just been tremendous," Marquise "Hollywood" Brown added. "His personality brings a lot out of everybody – his energy, the presence he brings. So, just for him to get that touchdown, we were excited. Everybody was throwing up the 'X.' I'm happy for him."
Bryant caught 73 touchdowns as a Cowboy – a franchise record. That's a lot of times throwing up the X. But Bryant's first X with the Ravens was different.
"It's a special thing for me to throw up the X," Bryant said. "The meaning is to X out the negative. To truly never give up, to beat the odds, to destroy adversity. That's what it means and that's why I do it."