Rashod Bateman is a confident guy. But the rookie wide receiver's hot start in his first three NFL games has taken even him by surprise.
After his debut was delayed by five games by groin surgery, Bateman has made an instant impact on the Ravens offense and shown there's another level he can help take it to.
"I think I've impressed myself a little bit," Bateman said Monday. "It's my third game out, I'm getting more comfortable in the offense, getting more comfortable playing in the NFL. So, right now, I'm just having fun, staying locked-in."
Bateman has 12 catches for 161 yards so far. He had five grabs for 52 yards against the Vikings in Sunday's 34-31 overtime win, including a pair of highlight-reel receptions.
While the first-round pick hasn't had a monster game yet, his play in critical moments has been essential for the Ravens offense. Bateman's first 11 NFL catches all went for first downs, proving his toughness to make contested catches and find the marker.
"I'm excited that I'm able to contribute and help the team the best way possible," Bateman said. "So, if I'm a first-down guy, then I guess I'll take that role."
The streak was snapped in the fourth quarter, but not without another highlight. Bateman made a spectacular one-handed catch for a 6-yard gain on the Ravens' final drive of regulation.
"The tough catches come when you're not really expecting it, and I definitely wasn't expecting it that time," Bateman said with a laugh.
Earlier in the game, Bateman snagged one of Jackson's third-down passes away from a defender as the quarterback fled pressure.
Bateman also drew a critical 42-yard defensive pass interference call that set up Baltimore's touchdown just before the end of the first half. Bateman made a savvy play to come back and try to make a play on the ball on a deep pass, which caused contact deep downfield.
Bateman is doing a little bit of everything and showing instant chemistry with Jackson. It didn't come easily, as the two hardly practiced together before Bateman took the field for his first game. Training camp kicked off with Jackson on the COVID list and almost as soon as he came back, Bateman went down with his core muscle injury.
"The times that we were out there, we made sure that we were connecting," Bateman said. "If it didn't work, we ran the route again; we ran it back to make sure we got that feel of a completion. I think little things like that have definitely helped us in the long run, and we're going to continue to do those things to make sure that we get comfortable."
While Bateman has gotten off to a strong start, he's itching for more. The targets could dip with Sammy Watkins nearing his return, but the flip side is that Watkins could take some of the chain-moving work off Bateman's plate, freeing the rookie up for more big plays.
Asked how eager he is for his first NFL touchdown, Bateman said, "I'm ready. I feel it coming. Hopefully it's coming soon."
And how about that "breakout" game that Marquise "Hollywood" Brown said Bateman's been chattering about? Brown had a monster rookie debut in Miami in 2019 when he scored two long touchdowns. It's not Bateman's premier, but perhaps he can put on a similar show Thursday night.
"I feel that every week," Bateman said with a smile. "It's just only a matter of, is it going to happen? So, hopefully it does soon."