Zay Flowers said he was “super excited” for his first NFL preseason game Saturday night, so much so that he wasn’t sure what to do at moments. It didn’t take long for everyone watching to see that excitement bubbling over.

On the game’s first snap, Flowers jumped off the line of scrimmage before the ball was snapped, prompting a flag from the officials and moving the Ravens back five yards. But Flowers denied suggestions after the game that his excitement led to the penalty; he blamed the referee, ball snap and his teammate, wide receiver Devin Duvernay.

“He snapped the ball fast,” Flowers said with a rueful ear-to-ear smile. “He called the play, and he snapped the ball like two seconds later.” Flowers said he was surprised because he and Duvernay moved simultaneously, but the flag was given to him.

Whatever happened on that first play – excitement, the referee being unfair or the ball being snapped in a rush – it was solved on the next possession. Flowers went in motion behind Josh Johnson before catching a lateral from him in the backfield. Flowers made a defender fall with a juke before being tackled. The play wasn’t spectacular, but in Flowers’ first time touching the ball, the explosiveness and quickness that have gained him national attention throughout training camp were apparent.

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Still, the story of Saturday’s game for Flowers was what he did without the ball. He often beat the Eagles’ defensive backs on routes but was grabbed and pulled as the ball headed his direction, drawing two flags. The first came on an illegal-use-of-hands infraction by cornerback Josh Jobe as Flowers was releasing off the line of scrimmage.

The second was in the red zone when Flowers was breaking on a route into one corner of the end zone, but Eagles safety Justin Evans grabbed him before he could get there. Flowers knew it was a penalty, turning instantly and waving his arm in a flag-throwing motion while nodding his head and smiling at a dejected Evans.

“When you’re hard to cover, guys tend to grab sometimes,” coach John Harbaugh said. “That’s probably the basic premise of the whole thing. He’s hard to cover. He’s got great feet, great acceleration, change of direction. And the defensive back, if he’s in coverage, has to match that. It’s the same in tackling; you’ve got to match that, as well. So that’s what good players do, and I’m excited to see him continue to grow.”

The Ravens won 20-19, resting nearly all of their starters as they extended their undefeated preseason streak to 24. Their next game is Aug. 21 against the Washington Commanders, but first the teams will gather for joint practices Tuesday and Wednesday.

For the most part, it was an uneventful day for Flowers. He served more as a cheerleader for his backups than anything else. Flowers played just eight snaps, the fourth fewest on the team, and finished without a catch and minus-1 rushing yards. So it wasn’t the fireworks that Flowers had produced regularly going against defensive backs at training camp, but in the small sample he proved to be a mismatch for Eagles defenders.

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“It was fun,” Flowers said. “It was a little bit faster, not too much faster though, like I can handle it. It was a good experience for the first time.”

The biggest challenge of the day for Flowers came before the game began. In college, Flowers had grown accustomed to warming up together with his team, but in the NFL players have their own warmup processes, leaving Flowers looking like something of a lost child as veterans went through elaborate warmups.

“I just kept running around catching the ball,” Flowers said while laughing. He later added. “I’ll have a better routine next time.”

kris.rhim@thebaltimorebanner.com

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