Saturday, the quote didn’t represent backing out or stepping down as much as it represented some well-deserved respect.
Even though Golden Tate was the Seattle Seahawks’ primary punt returner last season and a prolific one at that, he realizes the Detroit Lions already have someone special in mind for the role, allowing him to pass the torch a bit.
“I want to do whatever I can to help the team,” Tate said Saturday after the Lions’ charity softball game in a story by Carlos Monarrez of the Detroit Free Press. “We have a really good punt returner now in Jeremy Ross, and I have a lot of confidence in him. So if they need me, I’ll be there. But as far as I’m concerned, he’s the punt returner. He’s a tremendous punt returner, too.”
Tate leaving that role to Ross is fine. As Monarrez continued, though, Ross also craves a bigger role in Detroit’s offense, and has been seeing some time in the slot receiving role during camp. Despite that, Monarrez wrote, Ross knows his primary value to the team remains on special teams.
Neither Tate nor Monarrez should be sleeping on the third year receiver as a major difference maker for the offense.
Returns, after all, aren’t just what Ross will be able to bring to the table in 2014. Last year, he showed flashes of being a very capable middle of the field threat, perhaps someone who could emulate Jacoby Jones if given the right coaching and opportunity. Additionally, Ross can also flash as a weapon for the running game given his speedy legs on the edge.
On Thanksgiving against the Green Bay Packers, Ross showcased his unique talents to a nation. Early in the game, he snagged an important five yard touchdown pass which tied the score and provided the Lions with some much needed confidence. Later, when his number was called on a sweep play, Ross ripped off a 24 yard gain to help Detroit move the ball. Even though it was two plays, Ross had a major impact for the offense.
In addition to that, Ross collected a combined 116 yards between kickoffs and punts, but it was his work with the offense that lent the most excitement. Not since Desmond Howard in 2000-2002, or Eddie Drummond in 2002-2006 has Detroit had a receiver capable of electrifying both offensively and on special teams.
The Packers shockingly gave up on Ross prematurely after a few costly muffs in the return game, and in the process, failed to realize his true potential lied not only there, but in a major role within an NFL offense.
Count on Ross being motivated to show he’s not simply a one-trick pony this season, while potentially giving Tate something else to rave about to the press in addition to his obvious return prowess.