Disappointed with his role as the Ravens’ third receiver, former Pro Bowl wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh grew accustomed to being a featured downfield target with his previous NFL employers.
With the Ravens, though, Houshmandzadeh has been relegated to a complementary role where he’s not the first option on passing plays.
Consequently, he ranks sixth on the team in receptions with nine catches for 128 yards and one touchdown.
Wide receivers Anquan Boldin and Derrick Mason are the established starters, and tight end Todd Heap is heavily involved as well as running back Ray Rice out of the backfield.
"I think it’s an adjustment for me," Houshmandzadeh said. "Todd, Anquan, Mason, they’re getting what I assume they would normally get. It’s an adjustment for me. It’s like I’m the newest one here.
"I didn’t think it would be like this, but it is. As long as you win, but you always want more. You just practice hard and hopefully things will continue the way it is with us winning and you can get more involved. That’s all you can do."
Barring an injury to Boldin (38 receptions, 518 yards, five touchdowns) or Mason (26 receptions, 357 yards, one score) Houshmandzadeh is unlikely to have his duties expand.
The biggest impact Houshmandzadeh has made was catching the game-winning touchdown against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
He didn’t catch a pass against the Buffalo Bills. He didn’t catch a pass against his former team, the Cincinnati Bengals, despite being targeted several times.
Since catching three passes for 49 yards against the Steelers in the fourth game of the season, Houshmandzadeh generated a total of just four receptions for 48 yards in the past three games.
When asked if he’s happy playing in Baltimore, Houshmandzadeh replied with a question to a reporter.
"This is how I equate it: What is your job title?" Houshmandzadeh said. "You like coming up here doing this? If they told you that you couldn’t do that and somebody else was going to do it, would you be happy with that?
"Exactly, so that’s how I feel. It’s not a big deal because I knew what I was getting into, not to this extent. There’s nothing I can do. I work hard in practice. As long as we keep winning, it is what it is."
Rice (24 catches, 139 yards) and fullback Le’Ron McClain (11 catches, 91 yards) each have more receptions than Houshmandzadeh.
With the return this week of wide receiver Donte’ Stallworth from a broken foot, it’s possible that his presence as a deep threat could cut into Houshmandzadeh’s playing time.
Houshmandzadeh said he looks forward to Stallworth joining the offense, though.
"He brings a guy that has had success and that’s real athletic," Houshmandzadeh said ."I’m sure he’ll be excited. He hasn’t played football in a while. That for him will be exciting and it’s good to see a guy that had football taken away from him finally get a chance to play again."