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After Injuries And Uncertainty, Rashod Bateman Feels Free to Flourish

WR Rashod Bateman
WR Rashod Bateman

Rashod Bateman's offseason followed the script of his young NFL career – unexpected.

Speaking for the first time after inking a contract extension this offseason, Bateman said Tuesday that he didn't even know if he was going to be a Raven anymore. Next thing he knew, he had a multi-year offer in his hands.

"I didn't know if I was going to be here, [get] traded or anything. That extension definitely came out of nowhere," Bateman said after Tuesday's OTAs practice.

"I'm blessed, for sure. I did not see them doing that, but it shows that they believe in my work, my ethic, [and] the team believes in me. I love playing here. I love this organization. I love the fans. I feel like I still have a lot to do, so it was a no-brainer for me, for sure."

Bateman's first three NFL seasons have not turned out the way the 2021 first-round pick expected. After a relatively healthy college career, hernia and foot injuries cost him 16 games his first two seasons.

The recovery from foot surgery dragged into last summer and sidelined him for much of training camp, putting Bateman behind in the formation and chemistry of last year's offense. That played a part in why his opportunities were limited, and the ball didn't find him as much as Offensive Coordinator Todd Monken has acknowledged it should have.

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Our insiders, Ryan Mink and Garrett Downing, give their take on Rashod Bateman's 2024 outlook, what to expect from Mark Andrews and Isaiah Likely, and talk about some practice standouts from Tuesday's OTAs.

Through his first three years, Bateman has averaged 389 receiving yards per season and scored four touchdowns.

"Different people get different cards, and I feel like those were my cards that I got dealt," Bateman said. "It's helped me in ways that maybe I didn't know that I needed, and I'm thankful for that – to be here today [and] to be able to go through that – and I can sit here and say that I'm proud that I went through that.

"There was a time and place where I didn't like it. It was a dark time, bad time, just because I've never been through anything like that, but it was all a learning experience to help me be who I am today."

When the Ravens offered Bateman his contract extension, keeping him under contract through the 2026 season, Bateman felt peace of mind – something he often hasn’t had over his lifetime.

"Now, I've got a house to lay my head. So, that concern is gone," he said. "I know who I'm playing for, I know what playbook I'm in, I know who my quarterback is, and now it allows me to just go be myself, freely."

Monken said he saw "tremendous growth" from Bateman over the course of last season, even if the statistical production didn't reflect it. After playing in 16 games and finishing the year healthy, the Ravens are now betting on Bateman's breakout. With Odell Beckham Jr. now in Miami, Bateman will be the starter opposite Zay Flowers and thrust back into a starring role.

Sporting flashy gold cleats, Bateman has looked good at Ravens OTA practices thus far. He made a few impressive catches over the middle during Tuesday's practice and is showing the explosiveness that Baltimore coveted when he was coming out of college.

Most importantly, he's healthy, and that has allowed him to roll last year's strong finish into his offseason training and now practices.

"I think he looks incredible. Everything – his route running, catching the ball, being where he's supposed to be – he has it down to a science," tight end Mark Andrews said. "I know he's worked really hard, but he looks about as put together as he's ever been. So, it's going to be a big year for Rashod Bateman. I'm calling it now."

Bateman got open a lot last year but still only saw 56 passes come his way. That's about to change this year, as Head Coach John Harbaugh, General Manager Eric DeCosta, Monken and everyone agrees.

But Batman isn't in the prediction business. He said he's "very excited" about the potential of Year 2 in Monken's offense, but after all the twists and turns in his NFL career, he's not calling any shots.

"I don't know what's going to happen this year," Bateman said. "All I know is I'm going to just go to work every day. I'm not looking to do anything. I'm just [going to] go do my thing."

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