By Tony Grossi
Extra Points …
Could it happen again?: Sitting down and listening to Ted Ginn Jr., I thought of Desmond Howard. The similarities are uncanny.
Cleveland natives and high school legends. One starred at Michigan (Howard) and won the Heisman Trophy, one starred at Ohio State (Ginn). Both were overdrafted. Howard was the fourth overall pick in 1992 by Washington, Ginn the ninth overall in 2007.
Because of that high draft status, both of their NFL careers drew the harsh label of draft bust. Both were discarded by their original teams. Eventually, both found their way not at their natural position of wide receiver but as lethal kick returners.
And in Howard’s case, he blasted into the NFL record books with a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in Super Bowl 31, earning him the MVP award. No pure special teams player impacted a Super Bowl like that before or since.
“I didn’t watch it,” Ginn told me. “Just me being a part of this game and knowing history, I know don’t ever get settled to no position. You can be the No. 1 receiver, you can be the No. 1 running back, you can be the top quarterback. And somewhere down the line, somebody else has to help you make a play.
“I think that’s what Desmond Howard took. I think that’s what I take. It’s a Cleveland thing. We just fight and fight and fight and whenever we get an opportunity, we take it. That’s kind of like life.”
Keep battling: Yes, Ginn thought his pro career would have turned out differently than it has so far. He made 35 starts in three years at Miami, averaging 43 catches. That wasn’t good enough production from a top 10 draft pick. He was traded to San Francisco in 2009 for a fifth-round pick.
In three years with the 49ers, his receiving numbers tailed off further, but his impact grew as a return specialist. He’s had three return touchdowns with San Francisco, to go along with three he had with Miami.
“You come out and you play this game,” Ginn reflected. “You never know what can happen, what’s going to happen. You just have to stay with a clean slate and a clean head and be ready for anything. You can’t get caught up in what pick you came in, how much playing time you got, because things like this -- Super Bowl, playoff runs -- is great. You don’t get this a lot.
“You make your plays when your play is called. And then after that, you do whatever it takes to take your team to the next level. My seven years before I got into this league was more like pro ball (at Glenville High School and Ohio State), because of the structure. I played on championship teams. I had to sacrifice. I was ‘the man,’ but I couldn’t get all the balls. I went through the things where they wouldn’t kick me the ball as a punt returner. It’s all the same.”
Under radar: Ginn has had a relatively quiet year on returns, but don’t think the Baltimore Ravens aren’t aware of him. The Ravens escaped with an overtime playoff victory in Denver despite getting whacked with two TD returns by Trindon Holiday, who scored on 90- and 104-yard returns.
“Two touchdowns in a season’s unacceptable, let alone two in a game,” said Jerry Rosburg, Baltimore’s special teams coordinator.
“I don’t rank guys. I know we’re playing an outstanding returner. That’s what I know. This league is full of guys that are game-changers, and Ted has demonstrated over the years game-changing abilities -- outstanding speed, an experienced returner. We’re highly aware of him.”
Howard, 42, was in his fifth NFL year and with his third team when he smacked Bill Parcells’ Patriots with a knockout TD return in the third quarter of the 1996 season Super Bowl. It secured Mike Holmgren’s only win in three Super Bowl appearances. The big finish to that season earned Howard a big payday in free agency with the Oakland Raiders. He would return to the Packers in 1999 and finish his career with the Detroit Lions.
Ginn, 27, is in his sixth season. His contract is up and he will be a free agent after Sunday’s Super Bowl.
He said he has dreamt of "having my moment” and of “taking my moment.”
“The most important thing I’m doing right now is the Super Bowl,” Ginn said. “After that, I would love to keep the legacy alive, would love to come in and be a premier receiver. That is the ultimate goal. You just have to wait your turn.
“I still think I’m ‘the guy.’ So every time I get it, I’m gonna let you know I’m ‘the guy.’ You just have to go out and do it.”
|Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com. |
He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
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