September 05, 2010
Here's an interesting job description.
WANTED: Oversized, freakishly athletic (and currently unemployed) football players looking to make new friends and help NFL franchises at the developmental level. Must be willing to sublimate your ego for the good of the group, wear silly mesh pullovers, and pretend to be opposing players a lot of the time. Chances of Sunday afternoon facetime: minimal. Chances of getting lost in the shuffle: decent. Pay is quite good -- and as they said in "Bull Durham", it beats selling Lady Kenmores.
Does this sound like a gig for you? Then you, my recently cut-by-an-NFL-team friend, are ready to become part of an NFL practice squad. The league has been putting together their practice squads Sunday after final cuts came Saturday evening, and each team will sign eight free agents to theirs. Practice squad players will make a minimum of $5,200 per week as long as on they're on an NFL roster, and they can be signed by another team if that team intends to move them to the active roster. While on the practice squad, a player will take place in all weekly activities (practice, film, meals, training, etc,), but are not allowed to play in games.
Quite often in practice, they're on the squad teams, and are responsible for simulating opposing players for the next week's game. If you see a guy on the field with the normal shorts and shells, and a mesh pullover with a jersey number that isn't his, that's a practice squad player.
"You can't play the depth chart game, the roster game," Miami Dolphins running back Lex Hilliard(notes) told the Flathead Beacon in March of this year. "If you try to do that it, will drive you nuts. You just go out and play."Hilliard spent his first full NFL season on Miami's practice squad after being selected in the sixth round of the 2008 NFL draft. "I prided myself in going out there and making the first-string guys better."
And that's what practice squad guys have to do - make the first-teamers better. If they do it well enough, and long enough, they might get a bump themselves. Hilliard is now a productive member of the Dolphins' running back rotation and special teams units. Here are five members of this year's practice squad club who could find a way to stand out and rise up through the ranks:
RB Joique Bell(notes), Buffalo Bills: The former Wayne State product showed a lot in the preseason, rushing for 152 yards and two touchdowns on just 27 carries (5.6 YPC). Bell is a big back (5-foot-11, 220) with nice agility, but he was cut out of Buffalo's roster in a numbers game. Any team looking for an inside bruiser could do a lot worse.
TE Chase Coffman(notes), Cincinnati Bengals: This former spread offense tight end at Missouri was aced out by Jermaine Gresham(notes), but he'd be a decent straight-line option in the right situation. Bengals offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski said that Coffman impressed him with his development in his second NFL season.
RB Ryan Torain(notes), Washington Redskins: Torain excelled in limited time for Mike Shanahan in Denver, and he's conversant enough with the offensive system and zone blocking looks to get some in-season reps if the Clinton Portis(notes)/Larry Johnson rotation breaks down.
DE Hall Davis(notes), Tennessee Titans: Davis put up two sacks early on this preseason for the Rams before a controversial trade brought him to the Redskins. Cut from Washington one day later, Davis could help a Titans line still looking to re-tool after the losses of Kyle Vanden Bosch(notes) and Albert Haynesworth(notes) over the last two seasons.
DE Jarron Gilbert(notes), New York Jets: Word is that Rex Ryan took a real interest in the 6-foot-5, 288-pound Gilbert coming out of San Jose State, and the Jets are in need of an athletic 3-4 with Calvin Pace(notes) hurt. He was never a good fit with the Bears from a schematic angle, and if anyone can coach him up to play defense in the NFL, Rex can. Of course, observant draftniks will remember the real reason Gilbert's famous - this YouTube video in which he jumped out of a pool:
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