Growing up in a Steelers family, Hayden Hurst knows a little bit about the Ravens-Steelers rivalry. Now he's praying that he can join it.
The Ravens' first-round tight end returned to the practice field this week after suffering a stress fracture in his foot on Aug. 20. He's still limited in practice, but feels he could play in Sunday's game.
"I think I'm good to go," Hurst said. "It's up to the trainers and what they think is right for me."
Hurst had never suffered a football injury before and didn't even realize when he had.
It happened during the Ravens' third preseason game in Indianapolis. His foot was a little sore, but he practiced the next three days. It was only when he went to trainers asking for ice that they X-rayed it and found the break. He had surgery on Aug. 24.
Hurst took notice of the action his fellow tight ends have been receiving in his absence. Quarterback Joe Flacco has completed 21 passes to tight ends this season, including eight to rookie third-round pick Mark Andrews.
"The past few weeks, Joe has been wearing out the tight ends," Hurst said. "I'm chomping at the bit to get healthy and get back out there."
While Andrews is bigger than Hurst, Hurst has more quickness off the line of scrimmage and versatility. Hurst struck up a near immediate connection with Flacco during training camp and in the first three preseason games.
It will be interesting to see how Offensive Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg and Assistant Head Coach/Tight Ends Coach Greg Roman use their tight ends when they have the full group.
"Coach Mornhinweg really focuses on two-tight end sets and Joe loves tight ends," Hurst said. "If [Mark and I] can both get on the field at the same time, I think it could be dangerous."
Still, it's a question mark as to whether Hurst can get back in time this week to face the Steelers.
It would be quite the story, as Hurst has Pittsburgh roots and made his professional sports debut as a pitcher in the Pittsburgh Pirates minor league system.
"My family is from Pittsburgh, so I grew up in the rivalry," Hurst said. "It's a physical game, always is. Both teams don't really like each other. I would love to be a part of it, would love to get my head in there and throw my body around a little bit. I think it would be fun."
Hurst talked about how tough it was for him to have to sit out after getting on a roll with Flacco this summer. He said his escape was in the weight room, where he continued to work out his upper body every day until he was cleared to put pressure on his foot.
Hurst was limited in Wednesday's practice, but Mornhinweg said he looked "fantastic." Asked if he had any hesitation at all, Hurst said, "None."
"I'm ready to go," he said. "Once I get on the football field, I only have one speed, and that's how I'm going to play."