Antonio Brown was added to the Redskins' active roster on Nov. 13, but he didn't see the field until Week 15 at San Francisco. By the end of the season, Brown had shown his fair share of quickness as a return specialist.
And he could have played himself into the mix for the role next season.
"What a statement he made," head coach Joe Gibbs said of Brown. "We lost Chad Morton [to injury] and then we have Antonio come in there. I think he gave us a real burst. Of course, he is probably the fastest guy on the team. We really appreciated his efforts."
Playing for the first time at FedExField, the Redskins' newest kick returner took the field on Jan. 2 against the Minnesota Vikings determined to put the team in a position to score right away. Brown fielded the punt at his own 2-yard line and returned 66 yards to the Minnesota 32-yard line.
Eight plays later, Patrick Ramsey threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Chris Cooley. Brown's big return gave the Redskins early momentum that they used to earn a 21-18 victory over the playoff-bound Vikings.
"I had 10 guys in front of me who were doing a great job of blocking," Brown said after the season finale. "They let me do what I do, which is run. You always want to make a statement on a kickoff return."
Brown understood the importance of his return and how it set up the Redskins offense in the early going. He put it this way: "The NFL is a battle for field position and special teams are what create field position."
Added Brown: "If we can create field position to prevent our offense from having to go 80 or 90 yards, we've done our job."
Brown was signed by the Redskins in early November after Chad Morton injured a ligament in his left knee against the Green Bay Packers in Week 8 and was placed on injured reserve for the remainder of the season.
A West Virginia product in his second NFL season, Brown had been the Buffalo Bills' primary punt and kickoff returner in 2003 but was cut prior to the 2004 campaign.
With Ladell Betts and James Thrash playing ahead of him for six weeks, Brown had to wait to get his chance to play. That came in the 49ers game. Brown returned three punts in the game but was not able to gain any substantial yardage.
The following week in Dallas, he let his presence be known. With 5:12 left in the first quarter, Brown fielded a Dallas punt at his own 38-yard line and returned it 39 yards.
That effort set up a 25-yard field goal by Jeff Chandler, giving the Redskins a 3-0 lead. But with the Redskins holding a 10-6 lead and 2:33 left in the fourth quarter, disaster struck. Brown fumbled the ball after a returning a punt seven yards. Dallas recovered on the Redskins' 42-yard line.
The Redskins' defense held, but the unit was burned on the Cowboys' next possession as Dallas won the game on a last-minute touchdown pass.
The 5-10, 175-pound Brown was able to turn that Week 16 blunder into Week 17 success versus Minnesota. Of his ability to rebound from the fumble at Dallas, Brown said: "In the NFL, you have to have a short-term memory. You have to get it out of your head, and fast. I did."
In college, Brown caught 155 passes for 1,905 yards and five touchdowns in his four-year (1998-2001) career as a wide receiver at West Virginia. When Brown had no takers in the NFL, he opted for the Canadian Football League, where he spent the 2002 with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
As a wide receiver in the CFL, he finished the 2002 season registering 14 receptions for 208 yards (14.9-yard average) and two touchdowns. His signature game came against the Toronto Argonauts on June 28, when he caught three passes for 73 yards and a touchdown.
In 2003, Brown was picked up by the Bills, where he played for current Redskins special teams coordinator Danny Smith. Additionally, the head coach of that Buffalo team was head coach Gregg Williams, now the Redskins' assistant head coach-defense.
For the Bills, Brown earned a spot on the 2003 team with punt returns of 87 and 75 yards in the preseason. He would develop into primary punt return and kick returner for Buffalo, returning 25 punts for 111 yards and 48 kickoffs for 1,046 yards.