Kenneth Dixon could have been last year's Alex Collins.
Coming off a strong rookie season, Dixon flashed during last year's Organized Team Activities (OTAs). Terrence West was the returning starter last year, but Dixon was pushing West and could have very well ended up with the job.
That is until Dixon suffered a bucket-handle meniscus tear while working out at his alma mater, Louisiana Tech, before training camp kicked off in Baltimore. It was worse than originally thought and required season-ending surgery.
Four days after officially placing Dixon on injured reserve, the Ravens signed Collins, who went on to win the starting role. Now Dixon is back on the field, and he's looking to reinsert himself into the mix.
"It feels amazing to be back," Dixon said Monday after practice. "You never know what you take for granted until you lose it. Losing football for a year opened my eyes to a lot of things."
A fourth-round pick in 2016, Dixon had a strong rookie season in which he rushed for 382 yards and two touchdowns and caught 30 passes for 162 yards and another score. His 4.3 yards per carry were a team-high, and would have been in the NFL's 20 top had he gotten enough carries to qualify.
The 5-foot-10, 212-pound bowling ball has a great combination of power and quickness, displaying a knack for breaking tackles and finding the end zone. He showed he can also be a weapon in the passing game.
Prior to his injury, Dixon was already facing a four-game suspension for violating the league's policy on performance enhancing drugs, then had an additional two games tacked on for a violation of the league's substance abuse policy. He served the suspension while injured, but it added to what was already a difficult offseason.
Dixon thanked General Manager Ozzie Newsome, Head Coach John Harbaugh, Running Backs Coach Thomas Hammock and his teammates for sticking with him after the suspensions. He said it's a big relief to enter this offseason without that hanging over his head.
"Coming with the guys and everybody upbeat and forgiving of the situation, I just appreciate it," Dixon said.
"I definitely learned a lot. I brought some old habits that I had when I was in college. You've got to realize that you're not the big man on campus anymore and every rule applies to you. Just have to follow the rules and work hard and you won't have anything to worry about."
With Dixon out last season, Collins emerged and now enters OTAs with a firm grasp on the starting job. But there will, of course, be competition this summer.
Collins, Dixon and Javorius Allen have all shown they can be difference-makers in the backfield, and the Ravens don't lean on just one bell cow running back. With Danny Woodhead's release and retirement this offseason, Baltimore could use a pass-catching weapon out of the backfield.
"The knee feels very good. Battling some things you have to battle when you get back on the field with flexibility and all those things, but the knee feels totally well and I'm just ready to play," Dixon said.
"I just have to come in and work. That's all I can do. I don't make the depth chart; it's just about playing hard."