Wide receivers must make adjustments on the fly, but Rashod Bateman's rookie season was challenging in ways he could not have anticipated.
He suffered a groin injury during training camp that required surgery and cost him the first five games of the season. Then after Bateman returned and started finding his groove, Lamar Jackson suffered a season-ending ankle injury in Week 14.
Bateman and Jackson played just seven games together – not even a half-season of work to build their chemistry and timing. However, things are looking up for both Bateman and Jackson. They have already gotten together for throwing sessions in South Florida, and Bateman has arrived at the Ravens' offseason facility eager for what lies ahead in his second NFL season.
"I do feel comfortable," Bateman said, smiling often during Wednesday's media session. "The NFL was a big mental step for me. Just being here now I feel way more comfortable, way more relaxed. I know what to expect. I know how to move. I'm just excited for Year 2. I'm excited to be healthy. I'm excited to do the things I know I can do."
Bateman made an immediate impact once he started playing, finishing with 46 catches for 515 yards and a touchdown in 12 games. But dealing with the aftermath of groin surgery wasn't easy. He doesn't make excuses, but he was honest when asked how much he was impacted.
"I would definitely say it affected me a lot," Bateman said. "I got a great staff here, a good family around me. Being able to have them here, that made it easier for me. It was my first injury. I never missed a practice, never missed a game before."
The restrictions caused by COVID-19 the past two years made offseason conditioning more challenging for players, changing their offseason routines. Bateman was excited to be back at the Under Armour Performance Center for offseason conditioning, planning to take advantage of the structured schedule.
While he was away, Bateman also took it upon himself to get better. Asked about his recent workout sessions with Jackson, Bateman said they had been productive.
"It's definitely been real important," Bateman said. "With the injury and missing time, getting that chemistry back with 'L' is important. Working out with him was definitely a plus, getting in shape, running some routes. It felt good to connect with him.
"Lamar is phenomenal as always, he's doing good. I'm excited for him, excited for his future. It was something we had already talked about before the season ended. James Proche, Benjamin Victor – those guys came in there and worked out."
Still only 22 years old, Bateman will play a large role in the offense in 2022. Baltimore's wide receiver group is young, with Marquise "Hollywood" Brown, Bateman, Devin Duvernay, Proche and Tylan Wallace leading the way.
Bateman will be wearing a new number, switching to No. 7 from the No. 12 he wore as a rookie. It's another indication the 27th-overall pick in 2021 is making a fresh start. He said he didn't talk about specific goals for this season, but it's clear he's setting his sights high.
"I wanted to make a change in all areas of my life," Bateman said. "I'm really close to my mom. Her favorite number is seven, so it was an easy decision for me.
"I want this organization to know that I'm here to work. I owe them that, so I'm ready to see what I can do for them."