|Titans DE Ball returns to NFL after year away|
|Written by Admin|
|Tuesday, 02 September 2008 13:31|
Now he can put that red pen away.
The defensive end has earned something better than a gold star: a roster spot with the Tennessee Titans. Not bad for a guy who was ready to quit football if not for his wife encouraging him to give it another try.
``All the work had finally paid off,'' Ball said.
Ball, a 6-foot-5, 277-pound end who started his final three seasons at UCLA, had been a fourth-round pick by the San Diego Chargers in 2004. He played four games as a rookie, then broke a bone in his foot and wound up on injured reserve. He played in two games in 2005 and was on the practice squad when the New York Jets signed him Dec. 13, 2005.
Ball played three games for the Jets to finish that season and another 10 in 2006 before being deactivated for the final six games and a playoff game. Released, he signed with Carolina in March 2007 and stuck around until being cut just before the season on Sept. 2.
At that point, Ball and his wife had little choice. They couldn't return to their San Diego home because they were renting it out to someone else. So they moved in with his parents.
``That (stunk),'' Ball said. ``It was great because I hadn't seen my parents in a while. But I'm in my room that I grew up in, and I'm a 26-year-old man with a wife and child staying in that room.''
Ball stayed busy helping his mother grade papers and working out. He even had a few tryouts with teams, including the Titans. But no job offers.
``As soon as the last games were over, it was like, `There's nothing left.' So yeah, I was thinking of calling it quits pretty seriously. I talked to my wife a lot. I talked to my agent and my family. They were the ones, especially my wife, the one who pretty much convinced me to give it another try,'' he said.
Then Lake Dawson, the Titans' director of pro personnel, called with a future contract. Ball accepted and moved to Tennessee in April.
He found himself in good company.
End Kyle Vanden Bosch was a former draft pick whom nobody but the Titans wanted after two torn ACLs in 2005. They signed him to a one-year deal, and he turned into a two-time Pro Bowler. Tony Brown was sitting in a church in Chattanooga hoping for another NFL call after stints with San Francisco and Carolina. Now he's heading into his second year as a starter here.
``We just attack, so we look for aggressive guys, guys who are hungry, and I think that's what we're made of,'' Vanden Bosch said.
Coach Jeff Fisher said they brought Ball in knowing he had a chance to make the team. He can slide over to tackle if need be and has experience lacking in end Jacob Ford and rookie tackle Jason Jones.
``He was somebody that we felt had versatility that could play end, come inside and play tackle, he's hardworking and dedicated and smart. We owed it to ourselves to give ourselves options when we lost Travis (LaBoy) and Antwan (Odom). We did that,'' Fisher said.
Now Ball is determined to stick with the Titans as long as possible. It's why he's trying to emulate Vanden Bosch's relentless approach that has gotten him 31 sacks over the past three years.
``This is just the beginning,'' Ball said, ``and I want to work hard. ... There's a lot of work to be done.''