When Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was running the scout team in 2005, one of his favorite moments was seeing a practice-squad player was promoted to the active roster.
"You got so excited when one of your guys got activated to the roster and was going to play," Rodgers said this week. "I remember Samkon Gado breaking off a 70-yard run against Detroit on a sweep play and how excited I was (for him)."
This week, Myles White and Jake Stoneburner received the biggest call of their football careers when the Packers notified the two rookies they were being promoted to the active roster from the eight-man practice squad.
But what happens on the other end of that? The players who either remain on the practice squad or are simply get released at some point along the way.
The rules are simple For 17 weeks, practice-squad players receive at minimum a $6,000 paycheck to practice with the team. The contract can be voided at any time by either the player or organization. Want to sign to another team’s practice squad like Garth Gerhart did at the end of the 2012 season? Go right ahead.
NFL players are only eligible for the practice squad for up to three years. If you are active for nine or more games during a single season, you're no longer eligible, making it the ultimate sink-or-swim proposition.
Some like Tramon Williams go onto Pro Bowl careers. Others like Tori Gurley bounce around the entire league trying to find refuge. Then, there are those like Reggie Dunn who seize the opportunity and see how quickly it can be taken away.
The speedy wide receiver and returner out of Utah was signed to the practice squad on Sept. 30 before released 10 days later to clear room for cornerback Jumal Rolle.
The Packers told him there was “a 98 percent chance” they would sign him back. He could’ve awaited his fate crashing at the house of Packers rookie Datone Jones, whom he grew up with in Compton, Calif., but instead decided to travel back to Texas where his girlfriend lives.
A few days later, the Packers summoned him back when Charles Johnson was signed away by the Cleveland Browns.
No hard feelings – simply thankful for another shot.
“I’m just trying to make sure I’m playing my role on the practice squad, making sure I did my best at that trying to get the DBs ready to go against the Cleveland Browns,” said Dunn this week. “I’m playing my part and I’m loving it. I like the guys here, everybody is cool. I’m just having fun.”
The Packers’ practice squad ran 21 players deep in 2012 with three staying the entire season – quarterback B.J. Coleman, offensive lineman Andrew Datko and tight end Brandon Bostick.
Bostick made the Packers’ 53-man roster at the end of this year’s camp and has started to carve out a niche on special teams. Coleman and Datko were cut at the end of camp and have yet to sign elsewhere.
It’s the same situation in other parts of the league. This past week, the Packers reportedly attempted to sign receiver Taverres King off the Denver Broncos’ practice squad. To prevent that, the Broncos promoted the rookie to the active roster only to cut him days later when linebacker Von Miller was activated after serving a league suspension.
It also can be a second chance. The Detroit Lions promoted former Packers wide receiver Jeremy Ross from their practice squad on Saturday after he was released last month from the Packers' 53-man roster after struggling on kickoff returns.
That’s the reality of trying to grasp onto a dream in one of the league’s most volatile job.
“Nobody wants to be a practice squad player forever,” said Packers cornerback James Nixon, who was promoted to the active roster two weeks ago after receiving active roster overtures from Buffalo.
“Even still, it’s still a dream.”
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