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Rashod Bateman Makes Strong NFL Debut As a Chain-Mover

WR Rashod Bateman
WR Rashod Bateman

Rashod Bateman's NFL career started by moving the chains.

The rookie first-round wide receiver caught four passes for 29 yards in his debut Sunday versus the Los Angeles Chargers at M&T Bank Stadium, with all four receptions going for first downs.

"It was an incredible, fun experience," Bateman said. "The Ravens Flock made the atmosphere special, but I think my teammates made it more special. They've always had my back through it all, and because of them, I was comfortable and was able to go out and perform. It was fun."

Bateman was sidelined for his first five games as he recovered from groin surgery. The injury happened not long before preseason games started, so it's Bateman's first NFL game action. He stepped in with Sammy Watkins (hamstring) sidelined.

Bateman's first catch was a 6-yard stop to pick up a first down on the Ravens' final offensive series of the first half. The rookie got a loud cheer from fans and a slapping handshake from quarterback Lamar Jackson as he went back to the huddle.

Bateman got hot in the third quarter with three catches. The first was a tough 4-yard grab on third-and-3 despite tight coverage on the sideline. The second was an 11-yard catch and scamper on first-and-10, and the third was an 8-yard gain on second-and-5.

"He looked pretty good for his first game back – his first NFL game," Jackson said. "He was making tough catches, getting north, getting up field. He did great."

There were a couple hiccups, however, which isn't uncommon for a rookie playing in his first game.

It was no fault of Bateman's but, Jackson's first target to him was intercepted by Chargers linebacker Kyzir White. Jackson saw Bateman break open over the middle of the field but didn't see the linebacker and threw it right to him.

In the fourth quarter, Jackson hit Bateman in stride for what would have been another first-down catch, and perhaps Bateman's longest of the day, but the rookie dropped the pass and it was tipped into the air for another interception by White.

"Really good, except for the last one," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "That's the one he'll probably learn the most from, but he was good. He made some key first-down catches. I liked that he caught it, put it away and got straight up field. It's a simple thing, but in the NFL, it's not an easy thing to learn, and he did a great job of that."

Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman said this week that he wouldn’t throw the 27th-overall pick into the fire, but there are a lot more highlights to come from Bateman over his career. Bateman served well in Watkins' role as a chain-mover Sunday, but there will be plenty of big plays too.

Asked how it felt to be catching passes from Jackson, Bateman couldn't help but think about their long future together.

"I don't even know how to put that into words to be honest, because I've looked up to him even before I got to college, and while he was in college," Bateman said. "It was definitely an honor going out there and playing alongside him, and I'm looking forward to it for some time to come."

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