OWINGS MILLS — The last time wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh donned a Baltimore Ravens uniform typified his season of frustration.
An accurate Joe Flacco pass glanced off of Houshmandzadeh’s body, falling to the ground for a pivotal drop during the fourth quarter of the Ravens’ playoff loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The play still haunts Houshmandzadeh months later as he ponders where he’ll play next season.
"I wish things had ended better," Houshmandzadeh told Ravens24x7.com in a telephone interview. "I’m not a guy who drops the ball, but I dropped a ball that really matters. Last year was a really bad year for me on the field.
"The last two years have been the most disappointing years I’ve had. I know people will say I can’t play no more. If I get to the right team, I’ll shock a lot of people."
Signed to a one-year contract by the Ravens after being cut by the Seattle Seahawks, Houshmandzadeh wasn’t accustomed to assuming a complementary role.
Playing behind starters Anquan Boldin and Derrick Mason, the former Cincinnati Bengals Pro Bowl selection caught just 30 passes for 398 yards and three touchdowns.
Now, he’s resigned to the fact that he won’t return to Baltimore even though he said he enjoyed being a part of the organization last season.
The Ravens still have Boldin and Mason under contract and added rookie wide receivers Torrey Smith and Tandon Doss in the draft.
"It was just one of those things last year because Baltimore is the best place to play," Houshmandzadeh said. "That’s why it disappoints me. I love the people there. I can’t say a bad word about them. I wish I could come back, but I know the dynamic and how it works.
"Not playing as much, I didn’t know how to handle it. People in the media think, ‘He’s complaining,’ but I was learning how to handle something new. It was an adjustment for me."
Houshmandzadeh, 33, has caught 616 passes for 7,091 yards and 43 touchdowns.
The California native insists there’s plenty left in his tank even though the Seahawks gave up on him one year into a five-year, $40 million contract.
"I’m so eager to show people what I can do because I feel really good right now," Houshmandzadeh said. "Last year at this time, I was rehabbing from my fourth hernia surgery and I was trying to manage the hernia. Now, I’m able to really work out and do explosive things."
Houshmandzadeh works out regularly in Southern California. He’s one of the older guys there as he plies his trade against NFL defensive backs like Eric Wright, Orlando Scandrick, Gerald Alexander and Terrell Thomas and alongside New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman.
"We throw with some very high-profile quarterbacks," said Houshmandzadeh.
He isn’t sure where he’ll wind up playing, but wants to go somewhere where he has a chance to compete for a Super Bowl and play a substantial role.
"I need to go to the right team and get the right opportunity," he said. "Here’s the thing: You can be a good-looking man and you like a woman, but it doesn’t matter if she doesn’t like you. I want to go to a team that wants me to play for them."
Of course, the NFL lockout needs to end before Houshmandzadeh can go anywhere.
"Honestly, I don’t know what’s going to happen," Houshmandzadeh said. "I just want to get something done. I don’t want to fall behind. I think both sides are showing a willingness to get this thing done. It’s dragged out long enough. I’m staying ready for when it’s time to go."
Houshmandzadeh only played one year of high school football prior to enrolling at junior college and then Oregon State before making the Bengals as a seventh-round draft pick.
"I played longer than anybody ever thought I would play," he said. "I’ve been lucky, I’ve been blessed. If I didn’t act the way I acted and have the fire I had and be as competitive as I am, I would have never made it.
"I’ve always had that attitude that I believe I’m better than you. … Sometimes, it rubs people the wrong way [but] if you don’t believe in yourself, nobody else will."
NOTE: Speaking of believing Houshmandzadeh has been working out with Baltimore Ravens rookie Jimmy Smith in California, and he has come away impressed with the imposing cornerback.
The Ravens drafted the 6-foot-2, 212-pounder from Colorado in the first round in April.
"He’s a big kid," said Houshmandzadeh. "He’s works hard. Yeah, I like him. He works hard. I talk to him a lot. He asks me about the Ravens and I told him he couldn’t have got on his knees and prayed to wind up on a better team. He is very lucky to be drafted for the Ravens. It gets no better."