Three weeks ago, it was uncertain if Tandon Doss would have a job for the 2013 season.
The Ravens, which drafted Doss in the fourth round of the 2011 draft, released the receiver after a poor showing during the preseason. Doss was still making the same mistakes he did as a rookie, with a lot of other talented receivers passing him for playing time.
When Doss was released, it was assumed that was the end of the road for the Ravens and the receiver, considering the organization began the year with seven receivers on the roster.
But Deonte Thompson was still dealing with a sprained foot and Jacoby Jones injured his knee in the opener against Denver. Aaron Mellette was later placed on injured reserve due to a nagging knee issue. The Ravens needed a receiver and Doss fit the bill as someone that knew the system and could contribute on special teams.
In just a short period of time, Doss went from zero to hero. A week ago, he had three punt returns for 43 yards — two of which accumulated all of the yardage (22, 21). Against Houston, Doss helped fully swing the momentum in the contest.
Baltimore, which faced an early 6-0 deficit, had just gone up 10-6 thanks to a pick-six from linebacker Daryl Smith. Houston was then forced to punt, with Shane Lechler booming one 58 yards down the field. However, Lechler out-kicked his coverage a bit, giving Doss an opportunity to return the punt.
"It was a sideline return," Doss told reporters after the game. "It was actually to our bench. A couple of their guys overplayed it, which made me force it back to the right, and like Daryl [Smith] said, you kind of get a little hazy. You don't really know what's going on. You just react."
Doss ran down the sideline with the rest of the Ravens executing the play for him. Ray Lewis, in his suit waiting to be officially inducted into the Ring of Honor, was waving him on. Doss returned the punt 82 yards for a touchdown, giving the Ravens a 17-6 lead with 45 seconds left in the first half.
"For us to make a play against that group is huge for us," coach John Harbaugh said afterward. "Obviously, it was a big turning point in the game."
For Doss, it's been a wake-up call. He freely admitted to reporters that he hadn't put in the necessary time, work or effort over the past two years that it takes to succeed in the NFL. Getting cut by the organization that drafted him proved that anything can happen in this league.
Even to the ones that think they're safe.
"I came in very naïve about the whole business side of it," Doss said. "You see it — people leave the locker room each and every day. The guy next to you, locker's boarded up; you never think it's going to be you. And especially a draft pick. I know I was the fourth round, but the coaches always seemed like I was going to be around for a long time. When it happened, it got to me a lot. But that week I had ... and I got my mind right and I have just been thanking God for everything."
Doss says his approach to the game has changed in the short time he's been brought back. He doesn't want to wind up without a team a second time.
"I came out my junior year [of college], just being young and not approaching it like it’s actually my job," Doss said. "It’s hard to realize that. I did a poor job the past two years. You know, just taking care of my body and just doing things off the field I shouldn’t have been doing, honestly. My mind wasn’t in it all the way, and I’m glad I had that opportunity to see what I needed to do to change it."
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