This was the summer of 2014 and Daniels, then a 31-year-old who had played just five games for the Houston Texans the previous year because of a broken fibula, was still getting acclimated to quarterback Joe Flacco after signing a one-year, $1 million contract with the Ravens earlier in the offseason.
Daniels missed an extensive part of training camp. Ravens coach John Harbaugh said that the veteran was dealing with general soreness. Daniels said later that he had a hamstring injury. Either way, he wasn’t on the field.
With Dennis Pitta healthy at the time, the Ravens having picked Crockett Gillmore in the third round of that year’s draft and fullback Kyle Juszczyk primed for a bigger role in the passing game, I quietly wondered whether Daniels had locked up a spot on the regular-season roster.
The Ravens, however, had no such reservations. Daniels, a two-time Pro Bowl selection, became the starter when Pitta fractured and dislocated his hip in Week Three against the Cleveland Browns. By season’s end, Daniels was one of Flacco’s favorite targets.
He played in all but one game and was third on the team with 48 receptions, 527 receiving yards and four touchdown catches. Flacco targeted Daniels 11 times in the AFC divisional round playoff loss to the New England Patriots and the tight end came through with a touchdown reception.
It was clear that Daniels had plenty of football left, which was proven again yesterday when the Denver Broncos tight end caught two touchdown passes in a 20-18 victory over the New England Patriots.
Daniels, who followed Gary Kubiak from Houston to Baltimore and then to Denver, had a solid season for the Broncos after he signed a three-year, $12.25 million deal in March. He caught 46 balls for 517 yards and three touchdowns. However, he showed again yesterday that he’s got a knack for coming up with clutch catches.
Now, he’s headed to his first Super Bowl.