Ex-Ravens Safety to Make NFL Comeback with 49ers

Ravens Tony Jefferson

Getty Former Baltimore Ravens safety Tony Jefferson celebrates a play during a December 2017 game.

Former Baltimore Ravens safety Tony Jefferson has been elevated from the San Francisco 49ers practice squad for today’s game against the Arizona Cardinals, per the NFL’s official transaction report, setting the stage for his first NFL game in more than two years.

Jefferson played for the Ravens from 2017 to 2019, making 35 starts at strong safety in Baltimore. Already established as one of the league’s best run defenders at his position, Jefferson continued to diagnose and finish runs quickly while improving his pass defense, notching a career-high six pass deflections in 2018. In both of his full seasons in Baltimore, Jefferson recorded more than 70 tackles, continuing the Ravens’ history of strong play at the safety position.

He tore his ACL during an October 2019 game, prematurely ending his season and ultimately leading to his release by the Ravens in February 2020. He’s spent the last two years recovering from the devastating injury, eventually earning a one-year deal from the 49ers back in June.

Jefferson wasn’t ready to play at the beginning of the season, though, so he was placed on injured reserve and later released. But after getting fully healthy in October, he returned to San Francisco after starting safeties Jaquiski Tartt and T.J. Ward suffered injuries this season.

With both Tartt and Ward out for Sunday’s game, Jefferson could be in line for substantial snaps in his first NFL action since 2019.

Jefferson To Play Former Team

Jefferson’s return to professional football also comes against his first NFL team, who signed him as an undrafted free agent in 2013, despite widespread expectations that he would be drafted.

He played in Arizona for four years, emerging as one of the league’s best run-stopping safeties in 2016 with 96 total tackles, including 13 for loss. His play earned him a 90.9 run defense grade from Pro Football Focus, the best of any safety that year. After such stellar play in a contract year, Jefferson was a highly-coveted free agent in 2017, drawing interest from several teams around the league.

He ultimately chose to sign a four-year, $34 million contract with the Ravens, pairing with then-Raven Eric Weddle to form one of the best safety tandems in the NFL.

According to NFL.com in July 2017, Jefferson chose the Ravens due to their culture and defensive scheme, saying:

“I had to personally go on NFL Game Pass and watch tape and film before I made a decision. I felt like this defense fits me. I feel like this style fits me. I love to hit, and do that type of stuff. And I think that’s the culture, and that’s what I want to be a part of.”

Bateman Expected to Play Vs. Vikings

With tight end Nick Boyle already ruled out, Ravens wide receiver Rashod Bateman is expected to play today against the Minnesota Vikings after a late-week disappearance from practice sparked concerns that the rookie could have suffered another injury this season.

But NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport tweeted this morning that Bateman will play today barring any other developments before kickoff. He’s listed as questionable on the Ravens’ injury report, alongside veteran wideout Sammy Watkins, who will be a game-time decision, according to Rapoport.

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