T.J. Houshmandzadeh Returns to Cincinnati as a Baltimore Raven

Matt Gray@mattkgrayContributor ISeptember 16, 2010

BALTIMORE - NOVEMBER 5:  T.J. Houshmanzadeh #84 of the Cincinnati Bengals runs during the game against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on November 5, 2006 in Baltimore, Maryland.  The Ravens defeated the Bengals 26-20. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

This Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium, the Cincinnati Bengals' third all-time leader in receptions will take to the field as a Raven.

It will be interesting for both sides to see how Houshmanzadeh is received come Sunday. He is arguably one of the most popular Bengals in recent memory, being a staple of the offense and an integral team leader during the Bengals' success in the 2005 season. He has shown no bad feelings towards the organization since his departure, even showing remorse at his decision to leave.

Houshmandzadeh was a great force on the Bengals roster, playing for eight years in the orange stripes, ranking fifth all-time for touchdowns and seventh in receiving yards. He left Cincinnati in 2009 for a $40 million, five-year deal with Seattle, where he caught 79 passes and was subsequently cut by Pete Carroll as he geared the Seahawks towards a new youth movement.

Housh ruffled a few feathers in Cincinnati when he arrived in Seattle and seemed to express how much he was enjoying not being approached by members of the public like he had been in Cincinnati.

Seattle was "so different from Cincinnati, where I played for eight years. When you’d go out there, there were always people stopping you to take your picture or get your autograph. In Seattle, you can just go about your business. There are so many millionaires out there that they couldn’t care less who you are." 

However as time passed, T.J. seemed to show remorse about his decision to leave the Bengals.

“I tell people now if you have a chance to stay with your team and the offers are anywhere close, stay, because they’ll appreciate you more than other teams,” he told the Cincinnati media. “I did regret what I did, but it was too late to go back.”  

He also made clear how appreciative he was of Marvin Lewis and the Bengals organization sticking by him when he was hurt. It seems that for T.J., going to Seattle sobered him up and helped him to become a more mature and respectful football player and person.

Housh seems to have learned from his experiences and become better for it, which I can only applaud him for, it's just a shame he didn't realize sooner how good he had it in Cincinnati and how valued he was. However, every franchise needs a shake up and maybe T.J. wouldn't have matured if he had stayed put.

Regardless of what has come before it, T.J. Houshmandzadeh walks into Paul Brown Stadium this Sunday as a Baltimore Raven, and that is enough to make some fans boo him. The stigma surrounding a player going from one team to another in the same division is a huge deal, and many fans will be unable to comprehend T.J.'s having joined the Ravens, believing it to be an act of disloyalty in a similar fashion to Donovan McNabb. 

On the flip side, there will be a vast number of fans, myself included, who will be happy to see T.J. compete in Paul Brown Stadium once more (and not just because Adam Jones, Johnathan Joseph, and Leon Hall are going to completely shut him down). I have a deep respect for T.J., through both his career achievements as a Bengal and his positive attitude and comments following that time. 

T.J. didn't play a huge role in Baltimore's 10-9 victory over the Jets, catching one pass for 27 yards. It would be wrong to expect huge things from him right away and I expect that to continue on Sunday. He is still learning the playbook in Baltimore and has had very little time to do so.

I'm sure I will be far more worried about T.J.'s presence come the second meeting this season. For now, I am merely intrigued to see an old face back where he started as a seventh-round pick, and to see if he has made the right decision.

Like he says, “It’ll be different” on Sunday, and how does T.J. think he will be perceived?

“Man, I don’t know, expect the worst, hope for the best. I don’t know either way if it will bother me. I started at the bottom, so maybe they have a little more empathy for me because I was a guy that started at the bottom. I was always supposed to get cut every year, so maybe they feel like I was a guy that always had to earn his keep.”

What are your thoughts and feelings about T.J. returning? Will you boo or cheer him on Sunday, and how will the fans in attendance react? More importantly, will he make an impact?