Prior to the Ravens’ home game against the Dallas Cowboys, Deonte Thompson had ranked 13th in the NFL in kick return average (25.9 yards). But the undrafted rookie learned the importance of protecting the football.
Thompson was stripped of the ball on a kickoff to open the third quarter against the Kansas City Chiefs on Oct. 7. Kansas City converted the turnover into a field goal, and the Ravens persevered with a 9-6 win, but Thompson conceded that his gaffe may have influenced the coaches to bench him against Dallas.
“It probably had some kind of role in it,” he said of the fumbled return. “But I’m not sure how much. You don’t get too many opportunities to mess up, and you can’t mess up too many times. If you mess up once, they try something new.”
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Special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg acknowledged that Thompson’s error was part of the decision-making process the coaches took.
“Everything’s a factor,” Rosburg said. “The fumble’s a factor, sure. You can’t go into it and say, ‘Fumbling’s OK.’ It’s not.”
Thompson’s mistake opened the door for Jacoby Jones to handle kickoffs, and he quickly took advantage by tying an NFL record with a 108-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, which earned him the AFC’s Special Teams Player of the Week honor.
Thompson said he was delighted for Jones, saying, “Everybody wants to play, and everybody wants a starting spot on the team. But I’m happy for him. Everything went great. I’m glad we broke one.”
Thompson said he wasn’t sure if he would resume his role as the team’s primary kick returner, but he said he’s going to prepare every week as if he’s the guy.
“Everything happens for a reason,” he said. “I just go with the plan. Of course, I want to be out there. But I know God has a plan. So I’ve just got to keep doing, go with the flow, and keep doing what the coaches ask you to do.”
Rosburg said the team hasn’t lost faith in Thompson and predicted big things for the first-year player.
“[W]e have big plans for Deonte,” Rosburg said. “It’s not just one play. He’s going to be a great returner going forward and might be this week.”