When Asa Jackson reached the end zone Thursday night, he waived off his celebration-seeking teammates.
After scoring on a 78-yard punt return in the fourth quarter, Jackson never stopped running. He left the end zone, went up to the Ravens sideline, took his helmet off and shook his head.
After having a highlight reel, weaving punt return for a touchdown called back last preseason, Jackson thought it was going to happen to him again. This time, he left several Falcons in his dust, but there were two yellow flags on the ground.
"I thought it was déjà vu," Jackson said. "I saw both flags. I was [mad] when I turned the corner and I saw them both come out. I thought for sure it was a block in the back or something and it was going to get called back."
Turns out, the penalty was on the Falcons. At last, Jackson had his first NFL touchdown – and could promptly bust out his choreographed dance (seemingly involving buckling a seatbelt).
Jackson has had some low moments during training camp. He's been suspended for the first eight games of the regular season, and last Saturday Head Coach John Harbaugh threatened to cut him after the second-year cornerback jumped into a practice scuffle.
But Jackson has now played well in both preseason games, and continues to prove that he may be worth keeping around once he returns from suspension.
"It's all a part of football and it's all a part of life," Jackson said. "You're going to go through ups and downs, but it's how you handle things when things are bad that really define your character – not when they're good. So, I'm just going to try to keep going out there and do what I can to help the team win games and show that I can still be a valuable asset to the team."
Jackson notched an interception in the Ravens' first preseason win in Tampa Bay. He finished Thursday night with the touchdown and a team-high seven tackles, including a big one late in the game that sent a Falcons receiver to the sideline.
It was Jackson's punt return, however, that may do him the most good when coaches are evaluating whether to put him on the 53-man roster after his suspension.
With a bounty of cornerbacks on the roster, Jackson likely wouldn't have much of a defensive role. He'll have to earn his way onto the team via special teams, either as a gunner or returner. With Jacoby Jones in line for a bigger share at wide receiver, Baltimore could be looking for a new punt returner.
"Whatever I can do," Jackson said. "Even if it's playing just gunner or corner on punt return, that's still a valuable asset to the team. I'm ready to do whatever."
Jackson is making his pitch. Atlanta's Matt Bosher outkicked the punt coverage, allowing Jackson to make the catch and build up speed. He beat four Falcons players around the edge, then turned up the sideline and jetted past the punter.
Jackson was untouched.
"Asa can run. I don't know if he gets enough credit for how fast he is," Harbaugh said.
Harbaugh and Jackson both gave a lot of the credit to the blocking. Wide receiver Aaron Mellette held off the punter, linebacker D.J. Bryant blasted another Falcons player away and wide receiver Tommy Streeter also had a nice block.
"I did the easy part; I just had to catch the ball and get around the corner," Jackson said. "They were the ones that set the blocks up and made the wall for me, and at that point I almost walked into the end zone."