Player Diary

‘Knowing you can play at 80 percent is a good confidence builder' <BR><BR>

The last game against the Ravens was a crunch-time game. The coaches made an emphasis that it would be the last time for everybody to show what they had, that there were decisions to be made. I understood that totally. I got the opportunities early in the game and took advantage of them. I got in during the third play of the game, with the first team. I got to play against the first-team Ravens defense and see what their speed was like. That was awesome. Playing on the same field as Ray Lewis and those guys was something.

I made some plays (four catches, 135 yards, 42-yard TD catch). Once I finally got a ball, it was innate almost. It became like second nature. Things played out pretty well for me.

After the game, I was comfortable that I did something, whether it was for this team or another. I showed that I could still play. I still have my speed, my ball senses and can get to the ball. I can make big catches and stuff like that. I felt good about my performance. I really didn't think about making the team or not; I just wanted to make sure that I left everything I had on the field.

But it was great once I found out that I did make the team. However, nothing is guaranteed. This game is a tough game. It's not like basketball, where you have guaranteed contracts.

I called my Mom right away because she had been worried. She had been watching the cuts every day. She was pretty nervous about it so I called her and told her that I made the final 53. That's an accomplishment right there. Who knows what happens in the future? But that's a step in the right direction.

Health-wise, I'm probably still only about 85 percent. I definitely have some work to do. But during the season it's tough to get that work in. I'll work through it, then next offseason I'll work on getting the rest of the strength back. But I can work at 85 percent, strength-wise.

When I get that strength back I'll be more confident in blocking and getting my hands dirty. You really have to step up doing that on this level. These guys are stronger, faster and more explosive. I don't mind blocking. Coach likes a player who can go out there and play unselfishly, who doesn't worry about how many catches he gets. I want to be as effective without the ball as I am with it.

At least speed-wise, I'm back to 100 percent. My best time ever was a 4.38. Five months after I got hurt, I ran a 4.47. Straight-ahead speed is not a big problem. I'm back down to a 4.40, 4.38 now.

I'm still working in the return games. The more things you can do, the more of an asset you can be to your team. I've been working on both punts and kicks. Repetition is the only way to get confidence, and confidence goes a long way in punt returning.

It's been a huge learning experience for me so far. I've had to learn how to play with pain. You have to learn how to overcome some obstacles early on. You need to develop confidence in the knee. It's been a great learning experience for me. That's mostly what I pulled out of training camp.

It was probably good for me in the long run to just get thrown right in there when I got to camp. That's the only way you can develop confidence, especially from an injury like this. Progressively getting more and more confident in that leg was helpful. It didn't start off as smooth as I wanted it to. But by the end of camp, I felt I was hitting my cuts and getting a lot better with my speed. Once I got the offense down, it was even easier. It's a lot easier when you know what you're doing.

I was just determined from the day I got hurt midway through my senior season. I knew it was going to be a long road to recovery. But the faster you get to work the faster you can get back to work. The day after I got hurt I started my pre-surgery rehab. From then till the draft workouts, I wanted to show everyone that I was willing to work hard.

It was tough on my family and me when I fell as far down in the draft as I did (sixth round). My family was good talking to me and keeping my spirits up. We watched the whole draft all the way through. But just getting picked up was a blessing. I'd rather look at it that way. At least I got picked up and got a chance. Even then there's nothing that's going to guarantee anything. That's why I was nervous in the beginning, because I was only like 80 percent; I wasn't sure how my knee was going to hold up or perform.

But getting through that helped a lot. Knowing that you can play at 80 percent is a pretty good confidence builder.

My mom was a huge help when I was hurt. She was always there telling me it was going to be OK and not to worry about it. She told me that I had my chance and that I'd show them what I could do when I got here. She was really instrumental in keeping my spirits up. She'd check on me every day, making sure that I went to rehab and worked out.

I had some success during camp. It felt pretty good that all that hard work was finally paying off. I still had to get used to the speed of the game. I ended up having to sit out a week because it was tough on my knee. Running straight-ahead is one thing; but when you have to run left to right, dodge people and block people it's tough at first.

Looking back at camp, I'd say the rookie hazing is what stood out the most, in a fun way, of course. I had blue hands after one practice because someone had put dye in my gloves. I have no problem carrying guys' helmets off the field. They've earned it. I don't mind carrying Ike or Amani's helmet off. I also had to sing about three times in the dining hall. It wasn't all that bad. It comes with the territory. I did it to freshmen when I was a senior at college.

As the season's about to start, I'm just working on getting better every week, learning something new from a vet or a coach all the time.

I have a lot of people counting on me, from my teammates and coaches to my family. I have a three-year-old (Brandon Jai) and a soon-to-be wife (Eriza Munoz). He's a great kid. Whenever I'm back home that's who I spend my time with. We still don't know when the wedding is. I'm just trying to get through this season. After that, we'll talk about it.

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