Veteran running back Justin Forsett was so frustrated and disheartened following an injury-plagued season with the Jacksonville Jaguars last year that he began contemplating alternate careers and a potential exit strategy from football.
Now, the Ravens and Forsett are glad he didn't pursue business ventures or player development options.
The diminutive runner displayed his determined, tackle-breaking running style Sunday during a 38-10 victory over the Carolina Panthers at M&T Bank Stadium, rushing for a game-high 66 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries.
"After all the experiences I had in my career, being hurt last year, being on the bottom of the depth chart, I didn't know if I was ever going to play the game again," said Forsett, who averaged 4.7 yards a carry Sunday. "Every game I go out and play, I play it like it's my last. Thank God Baltimore called and I was able to get a spot here.
"I started looking at other careers. I like player development and I'm a business guy, but I would rather be playing football."
That was evident by how the 5-foot-8, 197-pounder eluded defenders and broke through tacklers. He started in place of Bernard Pierce, sidelined with a lingering strained quadriceps.
The Ravens rushed for 127 yards on 30 carries. Rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro contributed 58 yards and a touchdown run on 15 carries.
"I just wanted to come out and be a spark for the team," Forsett said. "Our offensive line did a heck of a job opening up lanes and made it really easy to run.
Forsett leads the Ravens with 255 yards on 44 carries and is averaging 5.8 yards per carry. He's on pace to finish with 1,020 yards for the season.
Although relatively undersized, Forsett absorbs punishment and isn't afraid to dish some out.
"He's very low to the ground," quarterback Joe Flacco said of Forsett. "He should have pretty good balance, and that's what he has.
Guys fall off of him. The touchdown run, a couple of guys hit him, and he made sure he got in the end zone. That's huge."
One of Forsett's top plays of the game was a darting 21-yard run behind a block from left tackle James Hurst. That led to his 11-yard touchdown run six plays later in the second quarter where he ran through linebacker A.J. Klein and safety Roman Harper to reach the end zone.
"I think you hit it right on the head — he's making yards after the hit on his own," Coach John Harbaugh said. "I remember reading [former Ohio State coach] Woody Hayes' book and he called it 'a string of pearls.' How many tacklers can you leave in your wake? That kind of is a measurement of a great back, and Justin is playing that way."
Although Pierce practiced all week and was listed as probable, the Ravens held him out as a precautionary measure to avoid aggravating his injury.
In addition to leading the team in rushing, Forsett has 16 receptions for 63 yards since being signed to a one-year, $730,000 contract in March.
Forsett has a low-key, quiet personality. He's known as a deeply religious person, frequently writing about his faith in social media or his blog.
"The way Justin carries himself off the field, you wouldn't expect anything else from him," Taliaferro said. "I model some of his routine. He's a very respected, humble, Christian man."
Forsett played for the Houston Texans under Gary Kubiak and credits the Ravens' offensive coordinator for lobbying to bring him to Baltimore.
"Definitely, I feel like he stood on the table for me," Forsett said. "I thank God for him and the opportunity I have here."