By Ashley Dunkak
ALLEN PARK (CBS DETROIT) – Almost every offseason, Detroit Lions returner and wide receiver Jeremy Ross goes back to his alma mater, the University of California, to work out with other NFL players, Maurice Jones-Drew among them.
Ross worked out at Cal again for three months this offseason, improving his route-running in particular by building lower-body strength that should allow him to be quicker in and out of breaks. What distinguished this offseason from the others, however, was that he decided to take nutrition more seriously than he had in the past.
Ross hired a chef to prepare his meals, and he said the dedication to eating healthy quickly paid dividends in terms of stamina, strength and overall game.
“Within a week I could feel my body changing,” Ross said Tuesday. “I could feel my energy level’s different because I was all gluten-free, all lean meats, everything, eating consistently throughout the day … more energy, more strength.”
Ross, who came into the league as an undrafted free agent in 2011 and is on his fourth team, needs every edge he can get.
He believes financial investment often affects which players get certain amounts of playing time – hardly a stretch – so for him to warrant a larger role in an offense, he feels he needs to stand out more than just a little. Ross said the money element has played a role in why he has not gotten more work as a wide receiver in his stops in New England, Indianapolis, Green Bay and now Detroit.
“I’m always up against contracts,” Ross said with a smile. “It’s not necessarily battling against a player. It’s battling against contracts, and being that I came out an unrestricted free agent, you know what I mean, and guys have contracts, so regardless they’re going to play, so I think that plays a huge part in it.”
Of course, Ross quickly added that money is certainly not the only reason.
“And the guys are just good,” Ross said. “All the teams that I’ve been on so far, the caliber of the guys – Green Bay had a great receiving corps, Indy had a good receiving corps, New England had a good receiving corps, and I even come here and they have a good receiving corps, so everywhere I’m at, you’ve got some top, big-name guys.”
Ross caught several passes in practice Tuesday, however, and head coach Jim Caldwell seemed to believe it likely that Ross will get more passes thrown his way this season.
“There is a role for him. There’s no question about that,” Caldwell said. “He’s catching the ball well. You saw him there a couple times today. He can run with it obviously when he gets it in his hands, he makes good decisions, so it’s a good competitive situation.
“He loves to play, a lot of enthusiasm, he’s athletic, and this guy wants to be good, and he has infectious enthusiasm,” Caldwell added. “He had it then [when he played for Caldwell in Indianapolis] and has it now, has always got a big smile on his face, and he’s ready to go to work. His body has changed, he’s matured since the last time we saw him several years back, and I think you’re going to see that kind of maturity continue to develop within him, and I think he’s going to be obviously a real fine player one day.”
Superstar wide receiver Calvin Johnson also endorsed Ross, who had five catches for 59 yards in 2013.
“Man, Ross has been great out there,” Johnson said emphatically. “He’s having a great offseason. He’s catching everything, he’s smart, he knows what to do, he’s in the right place at the right time.
“He knows his assignments,” Johnson added. “You can tell he’s been in this playbook when we had time off.”