Breshad Perriman: From top pick to Ravens' public enemy No. 1

Breshad Perriman has struggled since the Ravens drafted him in the first round of 2015, accounting for just 43 catches for 576 yards. Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Breshad Perriman's fresh start to the season lasted only a few minutes into the first day of training camp.

Running a simple 10-yard comeback route with no defender on him, Perriman watched a pass carom off both of his hands, resulting in a collective groan from the fans. Then Perriman pulled in the next throw, which led to mock cheers.

Someone yelled, "Oh my God, he caught it."

The fall for Perriman has been dramatic, painful and merciless. In 2015, he was the 26th player selected in the draft and some draft experts labeled him the next Dez Bryant. Three years later, Perriman's three significant injuries and an alarming number of dropped passes have put him on the roster bubble and in the bulls-eye for fans.

He gets ripped on social media. He gets criticized by the media. Even if he avoids Twitter and sports websites, he hears it from the 2,000 fans who sit a short toss away from him on the practice field every day this summer.

This is the pressure that mounts for a player who could be remembered as the Baltimore Ravens' biggest first-round bust. Perriman has managed just 43 catches for 576 yards in 27 games, and he was the NFL's worst-graded wide receiver last season by Pro Football Focus.

Perriman doesn't complain about being put under the microscope more often than other players. Increased scrutiny and the first-round pick label is a package deal, he says.

"I know there is some negative stuff out there, and there is always going to be some negative people that want to bring you down," Perriman said. "I like they have a higher standard for me. I have a higher standard for myself than they have of me. I'm more pissed at me than they are when I drop a pass."

The public backlash against Perriman has been brutal. Take Twitter, for example: He wished everyone a Happy Mother's Day, but the only reply was someone who wrote: "Your mom doesn't love you." Last October, he tweeted that he was praying for all those affected by the Las Vegas tragedy. One fan responded: "I'm praying that you start playing like a first round pick."

Teammates say Perriman hasn't let the harsh words affect his confidence or his approach to the game.

"I feel like he's handled it better than anybody else probably would," Ravens wide receiver Chris Moore said. "I know me personally, if I was in that situation, it would affect me a lot more. He comes out here every day working hard. I don’t know what the fans think. He’s trying to be what they expect of him."

In a 'dark hole'

Perriman's journey has been an extremely emotional one. He described himself as being in a "dark hole" when he couldn't get on the field as a rookie because of a knee injury.

A year later, during a two-month period, he lost his close friend and teammate Tray Walker in a dirt bike accident and watched his father, Brett Perriman, suffer a significant stroke.

"My dad beat the odds and that’s what really keeps me going," Perriman said. "Sometimes I have my days where I’m like, 'Damn.' But most of the time I snap out of it and you really have a thankful mindset."

Supporters of Perriman contend injuries have derailed his career. He missed his entire rookie season in 2015 with a partially torn PCL in his right knee, and he was sidelined for all of training camp in 2016 with a partially torn ACL in his left knee. Last year, Perriman was sidelined for all of the preseason with a hamstring injury.

This would mark Perriman's first full training camp of his four-year NFL career.

"When Breshad is healthy, he's got a really, really uncommon skill and ability," Ravens offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said. "When he’s healthy, the man can help a team win -- period, done, complete."

'A scary topic'

The Ravens picked up Perriman's $649,485 roster bonus on Saturday, which gives him one last shot to live up to expectations. The odds may be stacked against him to make the 53-man roster, though.

Baltimore added three new wide receivers in free agency (Michael Crabtree, John Brown and Willie Snead) and drafted two more (New Mexico State's Jaleel Scott and UCLA's Jordan Lasley). Chris Moore looks like a another sure bet to stay with the Ravens, and a returner could take a wide receiver spot.

Perriman has yet to flash in training camp. He still doesn't aggressively attack the ball when it's in the air, which is critical for deep threats in the NFL.

How does Perriman see his future in Baltimore?

"It's a scary topic," Perriman said. "You know what’s on the line, you know that everything is on the line. It’s kind of like a make-or-break year, but at the same time, you can't put that extra pressure on yourself. So I just really want to go out there and get better every day and control what you can control. Go out there and get better every day and go hard and everything will play out."

No one understands Perriman's situation more than cornerback Jimmy Smith. Drafted in the first round of 2011, Smith didn't start his first two years, causing some to call him a bust.

Smith, who is now the team's top cornerback, talked to Perriman about his experience. He believes players respond to criticism in two ways: You get bogged down by it or you use it as motivation.

"I feel like Breshad is taking it as motivation," Smith said. "Everybody knows he has talent. Everybody knows he's the fastest guy out here and he can make these plays. He knows his game. He knows what he has to do. He has to go out there and prove it."

Perriman has six weeks to show he can impact Baltimore's future and put his past behind him. He called last year the worst football he's ever played, and he acknowledged he wavered a bit privately.

But he insists that's no longer the case despite the doubts others might have.

"I know I have a lot of confidence in myself. It's still going higher and higher," Perriman said. "I want to have that swag back again."