What could have been the lowest — and last — point in Ryan Mallett's NFL career, his October release from the Houston Texans, was one he said was necessary for him to fully embrace his new opportunity with the Ravens.
Mallett said Wednesday that "the best thing, probably, was for me to be cut" after missing a team flight to Miami. It's created a path to a role with the Ravens in the final three games of the season and possibly in 2016.
"I've learned a lot from it," Mallett said. It "just cut me down. It was a piece of humble pie, but it digested real quickly."
A three-year backup with the New England Patriots who got a chance to start at the end of 2014 for the Texans, Mallett was lost a quarterback competition in training camp this year to Brian Hoyer.
Shortly after the competition ended, he was late to practice, and the missed plane trip was the final straw in Houston.
Mallett was out of football for seven weeks after his release, a time he said he used to work on himself off the field. His talent was never in doubt, but Mallett acknowledged he "acted immaturely" at times with the Texans.
"I've grown up a lot," he said. "I just want to be the best person I can, and that's what I've been working on. After that, I'll be working on the best player I can" be.
In his first practice with the Ravens Wednesday, that meant running the scout team offense in practice, as the other two quarterbacks — Matt Schaub and Jimmy Clausen — shared first-team snaps.
Schaub returned and took limited snaps after missing practice last week with a chest injury and Clausen, last week's starter, took the majority of practice repetitions.
Clausen, who has known Mallett since high school, said the competition for playing time in the remaining three weeks will make them all better.
Harbaugh said Monday Schaub will start if he's healthy, but said Wednesday there's "absolutely a chance" Mallett will play before the season expires.
"We're in a situation right now, our quarterback situation is up in the air, obviously, with the injury to Matt and Joe [Flacco] before that," Harbaugh said.
It will be a race against the end of the season, just 17 days away, to see if Mallett can get on the field.
He spent about 20 minutes after practice running plays with some of the team's other newcomers and young players, and Harbaugh said he's been met extra with quarterbacks coach Marty Mornhinweg and studied on his own to learn the offense.
"It's really a minute-by-minute process right now," Mallett said.
Considered a first-round talent in the NFL draft coming out of the University of Arkansas, Mallett fell due to off-field issues. New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick couldn't let him fall past the third round of the 2011 draft because of his value.
He spent three seasons with the Patriots as a backup quarterback, but was released at the end of training camp in 2014 when no suitable trade candidate was found. The Texans claimed him off waivers, and over parts of two seasons, he started six times for Houston and played in nine games.
The Ravens worked him out on Dec. 2 and were impressed, but wanted him to address some of his off-field issues.
When asked about a report that he sought professional help for those issues, Mallett said, "right now is not the time to discuss that."
"It will be discussed at some point," he said. "Right now, I'm just trying to be the best teammate I can be."
Baltimore has long been the NFL's last-chance landing spot, where players who might not otherwise get another opportunity in the league jump-start their career thanks to general manager Ozzie Newsome.
Safety Will Hill was released by the New York Giants and had a six-game suspension for violating the league's drug policy hanging over him when the Ravens signed him during training camp in 2014. Running back Terrance West (Towson, Northwestern High) is on his third team in four months. Before that, tackle Bryant McKinnie and linebacker Rolando McClain came with off-the-field baggage.
Harbaugh said players like that are like anyone else — "on that kind of trial in life."
"When you get a couple strikes against you, it certainly brings that into sharp focus," Harbaugh said. "But [Mallett] has an opportunity to make the best of it. He's determined to do that, and what he makes of it is really up to him."
Wide receiver Kamar Aiken, who was with the New England Patriots in 2012 and 2013 while Mallett was there, said Mallett is "more serious now" than he was then.
"He has all the intangibles to be a good quarterback in my opinion," Aiken said. "He just has to personally just find the stuff he needs to gets better. … At this point in his career, I'm pretty sure he knows what he has to do. You don't get too many chances in the league, and I'm pretty sure he's aware of that."
"He's a guy who's had a certain amount of success in the NFL, has a lot of talent," Harbaugh said. "He's had his ups and downs. We've talked about those things with him. He's a guy — guys go through things in life and in careers, and we'll see if he can get it going in the right direction. He's certainly capable of doing it. Love his demeanor, love his attitude, what I've seen of it so far, and I'm looking forward to working with him."