Houshmandzadeh shows he's not only talented, but humble, too

Ravens' new receiver quickly dismisses concerns about ego clash with Boldin, Mason

September 07, 2010|Mike Preston

It was on but quickly turned off.

New Ravens receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh defused any potential clashes of egos with fellow receivers Anquan Boldin and Derrick Mason as fast as Randy Moss can run the 40-yard dash.

"As long as you win, it doesn't matter," Houshmandzadeh said Tuesday. "Do I want the ball? Of course. And I'm sure they feel the same way. But as long as you win games, it doesn't matter who gets the glory or who's getting the ball, because at the end of the day, everybody benefits when you win. Period.

"I'm sure each of us will play a part in different games of playing the hero, so to speak, but you've got Ray Rice, you've got Todd Heap, you've got so many different guys, you've got Willis McGahee, you've got so many different guys in this offense and they have shown that they can do really good things in the NFL."

It will be more difficult than Houshmandzadeh thinks, but you left the Castle with the impression that he isn't a glory hound. It wasn't the usual glad-to-be-here speech but a 21-minute interview that let you peek into his soul.

Houshmandzadeh was honest, sincere and humble, yet confident. He explained why he is so outspoken.

"I shouldn't even be here. I never graduated from high school. I'm not supposed to be here," he said, "That's how I see it. I played one year of football my whole life before college. I went to JuCo, was a running back, guys got hurt, I got moved to receiver. Seventh-round pick … and I think that's why I act the way I act, for real.

"We had nothing to eat in the house. I'm 14 years old, I'm taking care of everybody. My momma, my older sister, my two younger brothers, they all relied on me. So, I think the way that I act on the field is the way that I grew up. That's why I wouldn't change the way … people say I talk too much. Stop me from talking then, and I'll stop. That's just me because of how I grew up. I think that's why I act the way I act, because nothing ever came easy for me."

The Ravens now have an interesting trio of receivers. With Houshmandzadeh, Boldin and Mason, the Ravens have three former No.1 receivers with six Pro Bowls among them. Tight end Heap and running back Rice also have Pro Bowls on their resumes.

Somebody might feel left out. If Heap isn't getting enough catches, he'll complain, but it will be private. Rice won't say a word if he isn't getting enough touches. Boldin complained the past couple of seasons about being an afterthought to Larry Fitzgerald in Arizona, but he probably won't be a distraction his first season here.

Mason? Oh-oh.

When Mason isn't getting the ball, he will yell, sing, stand on his head and do cartwheels. When the Ravens signed Boldin, they had to have a news conference for Mason to announce that he was returning even though he never went anywhere.

In the Ravens' last home preseason game, against the New York Giants, Mason didn't come out for his pre-game introduction because he wanted to be last, an honor that went to Rice.

John Harbaugh and Cam Cameron have to be more than coaches this season. They have to be caretakers of the locker room.

We've seen this act before in Baltimore when the locker room was split between the stars and the rest of the team. But that might not happen now because Houshmandzadeh is outspoken, not arrogant.

"I don't know," Houshmandzadeh said of his new role. "I guess that will play itself out over the course of the season. We'll see what happens. But I'm a firm believer if you show the coaches that they should get you involved, then they'll get you involved. That's what I plan on doing for every day when I get to practice."

The criticism of Houshmandzadeh is that he is a possession receiver like Mason and Boldin. That might be true, but look a little deeper. The Ravens just got one of the league's best receivers for a bargain price. The NFL is about matchups, and there aren't too many No.3 cornerbacks or safeties who can cover Houshmandzadeh.

He is still effective outside the 20-yard lines. He can still make the spectacular catch and find holes in zone defenses. Like Boldin and Mason, he is an outstanding blocker.

Most importantly, he is familiar with the Ravens' offense and all three receiver positions. One of the best things about quarterback Joe Flacco in the preseason was that he was able to spread the ball around because Mason, Boldin and Donte' Stallworth rotated in the outside and slot receiver positions. Cameron also ran the no-huddle offense, which allowed the Ravens to run more plays than most teams.

The bottom line is this: Would you prefer Mason, Mark Clayton and Kelley Washington or Boldin, Mason and Houshmandzadeh?

The Ravens are being sensitive about the signing of Houshmandzadeh. They played down his news conference Tuesday, and neither Harbaugh nor general manager Ozzie Newsome attended.

The Ravens don't want anyone getting jealous. They want everyone to remain on the down low, even though this was a big addition.

"I feel like I'm coming to play with guys that are similar to me emotionally the way they play the game and how they love the game, and that's where I need to be," Houshmandzadeh said.

mike.preston@baltsun.com

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