Let’s be honest. Gettin’ cut is a part of pro football, and it can happen to the biggest names in the game.
Unfortunately, if you’re lucky enough to land in camp with an NFL team, it can happen to you.
Instead of getting released altogether (and standing risk of saying bye-bye to the NFL forever), guys with less than a year of accrued
playing time that clear waivers can get placed on the practice squad.
For the record, practice squad players make way less than the league minimum, but they make more than you would probably make in a regular job, coming out of college.
While reading Understanding the NFL Practice Squad by Greg Gabriel from the National Football Post, I found some hidden gems that I thought could help increase your chances of landing a practice squad gig, in the event that you got cut.
Let’s get the show on the road.
Lesson #1: Getting Cut Doesn’t Mean You Don’t Have NFL Potential
As Gabriel explained, different teams have different philosophies behind who they allocate to the practice squad.
For example, some team’s philosophy is to simply retain the best eight players they cut in camp, while others may aim to keep two offensive linemen on the practice squad so they can have 10 to practice with (since most teams have 7-8 active o-linemen on the 53-man roster).
Bottom line, if you get cut, and don’t get a practice squad offer after you clear waivers, it doesn’t mean you don’t have NFL potential, it might’ve just been a numbers game.
Your window of opportunity in the NFL is small. If you get cut, you need to understand this, so you can maintain your confidence. Your next opportunity (if you’re lucky enough to get one) may be your last.
Lesson #2: The More Versatile You Are, the Better
Gabriel said it simply, “The players that have the most versatility are often the ones signed first.”
The more you can do for a team, the better your chances are of making the roster, or getting allocated to the practice squad.
In the article, Gabriel mentioned the importance of versatility in-regards to offensive linemen, but it applies across the board, really.
If you’re a corner that has the size, toughness, and can tackle well-enough to play safety, or can return kicks or punts, that versatility increases your value; not to mention the likelihood that they’ll keep you around, either on the 53-man roster, or the practice squad.
Same thing with o-linemen. The more positions you can play on the line, the better.
I know what you’re saying, “well I don’t want to be on a practice squad, I wanna make an active 53-man roster!”
Well, my friend, versatility increases your chances of getting scooped up by another team off the waiver wire as well. Your versatility might be the one thing that motivates another team to pick you up, once you’re cut from your original team (practice squad players can be claimed by other teams, as long as the new team is placing them to the 53 man roster, and they keep them on the 53-man for at least 3 weeks).
Lesson #3: Be a Quick Learner, and Learn the Playbook QUICKLY.
As Gabriel pointed out, the ability to learn the playbook quickly definitely helps your chances of sticking around:
The one thing coaches always want in practice squad players are players who are smart. They want kids who can learn their assignments and get through a practice with a minimal amount of mistakes. Because of that you can have players with more “talent” left off the squad because he can’t learn the playbook!
In other words, if you get picked up as an undrafted free agent, or you’re a late round draft pick, you’d better take some ginko bilboa (please consult a doctor before you take it, I’m joking here) or something, because regardless of how talented you are, if it takes you forever and a day to learn your assignments, you’re killing your chances of sticking with the team.
Teams tend to have more patience with the higher round draft picks when it comes to waiting for them to catch-on, because they have more money invested in them.
So if you’re lucky enough to land a spot in camp with an NFL team, keep these tips in mind to increase your chances of sticking around.
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