Ravens' Sams prepares for trip 'to the house'
November 23, 2006 8:04pm CST
Since signing as a free agent with the Baltimore Ravens three years ago, B.J. Sams has played running back, wide receiver and cornerback. His true value to the team, however, is serving as a moving target to 11 angry men. Sams has made his mark as a kick returner, a skill that has kept him in the NFL since his departure from McNeese State in 2004. The 5-foot-10 speedster has plenty of natural ability, but it takes a lot more than that to return six kicks for 212 yards -- his numbers Sunday in Baltimore's 24-10 win over Atlanta. "He's got a lot of God-gifted talent. He has great vision, quickness and the awareness you have to have to be a great returner," Ravens special teams coach Frank Gansz Jr. said. "He has all those intangibles, and on top of that he's a very hard worker." Long after practice ended Wednesday, Sams was fielding punts and juking imaginary defenders before heading to the end zone. His exploits Sunday set up two touchdowns and earned him AFC special teams player of the week honors, but he was left wanting more. "It was definitely disappointing to me, not taking it all the way," he said. Sams got his big day started by taking a punt 65 yards. For an encore, he returned a punt 59 yards, then added a 59-yard kickoff return. Close, but no touchdown. "I was joking with him today, that we got one to the front yard and one to the front porch. We just haven't gotten to the house yet," Gansz said Wednesday. "I tell him, I don't have a crystal ball. I don't when the big play's going to happen. But if you keep working and plugging away, good things will happen." Sams scored two touchdowns as a rookie in 2004 and has not gone the distance since. He did, however, lead the AFC last season with a 12.2 yards average on punt returns. He also set a franchise record with 1,826 combined return yards. He currently ranks third in the NFL with a 12.5 yard average returning punts. According to Gansz, many of Sams' best returns are the ones that go for minimal yardage. "He's been very smart with the ball. I can think of numerous occasions in games when he's made tough catches to save us field position," Gansz said. Sams has received 28 punts, only four of which he opted to make a fair catch. It is with great reluctance that he raises his arm while the ball is in the air, because Sams knows he can't score if he doesn't return the kick. "I do it when it's absolutely necessary, when the ball is really high or something like that," he said. "I really don't like fair catches. I like to make a play." Sams made several in Baltimore's fourth straight victory Sunday. "He really put us in position to take over that game," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "B.J. has been, for several years now, one of the top return guys in the league. He's hasn't really broken the big ones but he has been consistently solid for us." Sams has four career rushes for 19 yards and a touchdown, and he has one catch for 2 yards. These days, though, all of his action takes place on special teams. "Every game I get bumps and bruises," he said. "Look at little I am, and I have all those 300-pounders running full speed looking to tackle me." The soft-spoken Sams doesn't crave attention from the media, but he got it last month for his actions off the field. He was charged in Baltimore with driving under the influence, his second DUI arrest in 14 months. A court date has been set for Dec. 12. He has been advised by his lawyer not to talk about the case.