Daniel Brown's Thanksgiving weekend got off to a horrible start.
The Ravens cut the rookie wide receiver from the practice squad Nov. 27, the day after Thanksgiving. Disappointed and suddenly unemployed, he had nothing to do. He went to his apartment in Owings Mills, and packed his bags to start the four-hour drive back to his hometown of Smithfield, Va.
Brown knew the routine. As an undrafted rookie from a small school, roster spots are fleeting, and he had already been cut twice by the Ravens earlier in the year. The team told him they would likely re-sign him again, but that might not happen for another week. Or another month.
"I'm bummed because I'm out of a job," Brown said.
As Brown was about 30 minutes into his drive, his phone rang. Vince Newsome, the team's director of pro personnel, was on the other line. Newsome told him the Ravens might bring him back to the practice squad as soon as tomorrow, and asked Brown to hang around town for the weekend.
"It was a roller coaster," Brown said. "I was definitely bummed, and then you get a call back and they say they might bring you back, and you're happy again. It's crazy."
The next day, the Ravens re-signed Brown to the practice squad. He made the trip to Cleveland that weekend for the team's Week 12 matchup, but expected to be watching from the sidelines.
Then on his way to breakfast in the hotel Monday morning, he got another call. The Ravens were moving him to the active roster. He would make his NFL debut on Monday Night Football.
In the span of 72 hours, he'd gone from out of work, to playing on the NFL's biggest stage.
"That was a day for of emotions, and I was just glad to finally get my opportunity," Brown said. "It's crazy because your first game is Monday Night Football. You try not to get too caught up in all the hoopla about Monday Night Football. You just have to stay focused and do your job, but at the same time be happy that you're getting this opportunity."
Brown played just seven snaps in that win over Cleveland, but it was a starting point. The next week against he hauled in a 52-yard touchdown pass that was wiped off the board because of a phantom pass interference call, and against Seattle he started the game and finished with five catches for 47 yards.
His playing time has increased every week, and Brown is out to prove over the final three games that he can last in the NFL.
"It's been a dream come true, but at the same time I have to stay focused on the goal," Brown said. "And my goal is to show the coaches that I have the ability to play in this league, so I just have to continue to make the most of the opportunities that I continue to get."
Brown has shown ability with every opportunity along the way. The 6-foot-5, 225-pound receiver turned some heads in the preseason with a pair of touchdowns grabs. He also blocked a punt in the preseason finale, and then caught a touchdown two plays later to nearly bring the Ravens back for an improbable comeback.
The long-shot made a strong case for himself over the course of the summer, and the Ravens decided to keep him on the practice squad.
"I knew the odds were stacked against me," Brown said. "Of course you're always bummed when you don't make the 53-man roster because that's the ultimate goal, but to have the opportunity to stick around and to have the opportunity that I have now is a big testament to just staying level headed and working."
Brown now has a golden opportunity in front of him. The Ravens plan to hand the keys over to many of their young players for the last three games of the year, and Brown could see even more snaps come his way.
"In my mind, next year's season has already begun," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "We're developing these guys. We're developing what we're going to be next year, so let's go, man. Let's see how good we can get."
Brown has shown throughout the year that the NFL stage isn't too big for him. His lightbulb moment came in the Cleveland game where he knew he could truly play in the NFL.
Now he has to continue to show it.
"The ultimate goal is to prove that I can play in this league," he said. "I just want to continue to improve with the opportunities that I get. The more I play, and the better I do, the more the coaches will expect more of me and I'll get more opportunities."