The Ravens were eager to get safety Will Hill on the field.
Baltimore signed Hill this offseason knowing that he would be suspended for the first six games of the season, but the team also knew that the safety had sky-high potential. The Ravens got their first look at that talent in game action Sunday, as Hill made his debut against the Atlanta Falcons.
"Everybody was really excited when we got him and we couldn't wait for him to get out on the field," outside linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "A lot of us just wanted to see him play, and he got out there and made some plays today."
Hill played a reserve role on defense, as he plugged into a four-man safety rotation that the Ravens have used recently.
He took snaps on the deep half of the field and near the line of scrimmage, and he finished with two tackles. He also delivered a crushing hit on quarterback Matt Ryan during a blitz on his first series of the game.
"This is just a start," Hill said. "I had 10 games, and I have nine more to go. I just have to get ready to step up the level each game."
It was a limited sample size for Hill, but the Ravens liked the early returns.
"He flew around, made a tackle or two," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "For the first game, being kind of out for six weeks, it looks like he played well."
"Will is going to be Will," safety Matt Elam added. "He was one of the best free safeties in the league last year, and coming in after not being here for six weeks, he looked good, like he'd been here all year. I'm excited what this secondary is going to bring as the year keeps on building."
In addition to Hill and Elam, safeties Darian Stewart and Terrence Brooks also saw snaps in the defensive rotation. Brooks (44 snaps) and Stewart (44) led the way in terms of playing time, with Elam (22) and Hill (22) playing an equal number of reps.
Rather than just using two safeties to play all of the defensive snaps like the Ravens have done in previous years, the Ravens have taken a by-committee approach. Hill's arrival could give the Ravens another piece in that rotation, or he could end up playing his way into a starting role.
"I know they have a great deal of confidence in me now," Hill said. "My coaches kept coming to me after every drive I was in to let me know if I did something wrong. They were pretty satisfied with my play."
The return to the field was emotional for Hill, whose six-game suspension was the result of violating the NFL's drug policy. He has been suspended three times during his NFL career, and he admitted that he questioned whether he would get another chance to play.
"I thank the whole organization for letting me be here," Hill said. "This league is precious. People call it the National Football League, but for us players, it's really Not For Long. Just to be on any team is a blessing."