Rookie Keenan Reynolds will make his NFL debut in Sunday’s regular-season finale.
The Ravens have moved cornerback Jimmy Smith to injured reserve (IR) after he suffered a high-ankle sprain in the Dec. 12 game in New England. Head Coach John Harbaugh confirmed Monday that Smith wasn’t going to be available to play in Cincinnati.
Moving Smith to IR opens up a spot for Reynolds, and offers him a one-game audition for next year.
Harbaugh said “next year’s going to be the year” when Reynolds needs to show he can contribute on the 53-man roster. He essentially had a red-shirt rookie season to make the conversion from quarterback to wide receiver.
After a year of hard work, Harbaugh said the promotion is a “reward” from General Manager Ozzie Newsome.
“I’m pleased with Keenan,” Harbaugh said. “It's a difficult thing making a transition like he’s doing. I think he works really hard at it every day. He’s learned a lot.”
The Navy product was a project that the Ravens drafted in the sixth round. Making the switch from triple-option quarterback to wide receiver is tough, even for a record-setting college player. His 88 career scores (rushing and receiving) are the most in NCAA FBS history.
Reynolds had too many drops as a receiver and returner in training camp, which led to him being placed on the practice squad at the start of the year so he could continue his development.
It’s been difficult for Reynolds, who was accustomed to being the main cog in the offense, and in a lot of big games at Navy.
“Patience was never really one of my strong suits just in life in general,” Reynolds said. “It was very symbolic for me as a man. It was something I had to learn.”
Reynolds has also learned a lot about being a wide receiver. He’s gone against the Ravens’ starting defense throughout the year in practice, all while putting in extra work with Wide Receivers Coach Bobby Engram to work on his releases, routes, reading coverages and more.
“It’s been a great challenge, but also an opportunity for me to get a lot better,” Reynolds said. “I feel like a wide receiver now. My arm hurts if I throw too much.”
Reynolds got the news that he would be moved to the active roster on Thursday. He immediately called his parents to share the good news.
“It’s been a long season,” he said. “I’m just happy to be part of the squad on Sunday.”