The beginning of his NFL career hasn't exactly gone as Asa Jackson would have liked.
Drafted in the fifth round by the Ravens this past spring out of Cal Poly as a cornerback and return specialist, Jackson has yet to see the field in a regular-season game. Buried on the depth chart, he has been declared a game-day inactive in all six games thus far.
That could change, though, after the season-ending knee injury to cornerback Lardarius Webb.
With Webb down, Jimmy Smith will slide into a starting role opposite Cary Williams. The first nickel back now is expected to be Corey Graham, with Chykie Brown and Jackson both sliding up the depth chart as well.
"Obviously, I don't know anything about what my role is going to be," Jackson said on Wednesday. "This is why they put me in the position that I've been in this whole time. In case something like this happens, then it's my turn to step up. This week I'm going to show (the coaches), give 'em some confidence in me so hopefully on Sunday I'll be able to do something good in the game."
Jackson showed glimpses of his potential in the preseason, including some heavy hits and a highlight-reel 85-yard punt return touchdown against the Lions, though it was called back by a penalty.
But his NFL career to date has been "frustrating;" each game so far, he's been one of the seven players on the 53-man roster dressed in sweats, rendered inactive for the game.
"Shoot, up to this point, or up to the point I'm at, being a rookie coming in," he said, "everyone was 'the man' where they were coming from."
Indeed, Jackson set school records for interception return touchdowns (3), punt return average for a career (14.7) and was a four-time, first-team all-conference player at Cal-Poly.
"Going from like me being a big fish in a little pond, or being that dude at Cal-Poly, to coming here and just being a scout player, obviously that's frustrating," Jackson said. "But at the same time, knowing how long the NFL season is, and just knowing how the NFL works, you always gotta be ready."
Jackson said other friends in the NFL, such as former Redskins cornerback Brandyn Thompson and Rams receiver Austin Pettis, helped him "make sure that I have my head on straight and I wasn't letting that frustration get in the way of me doing my job Monday through Saturday."
Ravens coach John Harbaugh said that with the injuries to Webb and linebacker Ray Lewis, it is indeed next man up.
"It’s an opportunity," Harbaugh said at his Wednesday news conference. "You know the old saying: ‘When one door closes, another door opens,’ right? We’ve all heard that since we were kids, and that’s true. There are going to be opportunities for guys to [step up]."
If Jackson is called upon to be one of those guys, he says he's ready.
"Football is football," he said. "Obviously it's a little faster, some guys are a little bigger, but it's the same game I've been playing since I was 9 years old out in the rec fields in Sacramento."