Odell Beckham Jr. thrived with the Rams during the back half of the 2021 season, helping them win Super Bowl LVI. He still believes he would have been Super Bowl MVP had he not torn his ACL early in the game (after scoring a touchdown).
On Thursday, his first official day as a Raven, Beckham revealed that he was playing hurt that entire time. He said a team official informed him in Week 9, just after signing with Los Angeles, that he didn't have an ACL and they were ready to perform surgery.
"I just told him, 'I've been through way too much to come here and sign. There was way too much talk on my name. I came here to help win a championship.'" Beckham said. "I told him I'd die on the sword. I just cared that much about playing."
If that's what Beckham was then – 48 receptions for 593 yards and seven touchdowns in 12 games – the Ravens are ecstatic thinking about what Beckham could be with a healthy knee.
It's been a long road back for the superstar wide receiver, who had his second career ACL surgery shortly after Super Bowl LVI nearly 14 months ago. He said the first two to three months were very hard, and there were some "dark days that I really had to climb myself out of."
Beckham debated returning to the field late last year and spoke to some teams, including the Ravens, about that possibility, but he ultimately sat out the entire 2022 season.
There are still questions about the health of his knee as he approaches the 2023 season. That was part of the reason why the 30-year-old superstar remained on the free-agent market until April.
He held a private workout for teams in March, which was attended by Ravens Assistant Wide Receivers Coach Keith Williams, to show how far he's come. General manager Eric DeCosta said he probably watched tape of the workout four times, and also had the team's coaches and other scouting staff watch it, too.
"We saw everything we needed to see, knowing that it's going to just improve," DeCosta said. "When a guy has a serious injury, in general, it only gets better. It may take time. Sometimes it takes longer, but it only gets better. What we saw was extremely encouraging and I can't wait to see the progression from March to April to May to September. That's probably the thing that we're most excited about. We're getting somebody who is ready to explode again."
Beckham said he can't name a day when he turned the corner and can't say whether he feels back to his pre-injury form, but he's confident that he'll be ready when it's gametime.
"I feel great now," he said. "I'm still in my process of getting ready for September. … It's about getting ready for that, being in the best physical shape, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, all of that.
"It's five months until we're on the field and rolling. For me, that's plenty of time. I have plenty of confidence. It's time to get to work."
Beckham said he'll discuss when he first takes the practice field with Ravens coaches and medical staff, but he indicated that he's not in a rush to participate in organized team activities. Baltimore was cautious with the return of players coming off major injuries last offseason, and likely will be again in 2023.
There's no question that Beckham is chomping at the bit to play.
"I had to sit back and watch everybody have fun last year and do backflips in the end zone and do 'The Griddy,'" Beckham said. "Everybody got to have fun and I was just licking my chops and wanting to be back out there."
Asked how close he is to his former self, who went to three Pro Bowls and set records his first few years in the league, Beckham smiled and said, "We'll see in September."