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Chargers Relying Heavily on Practice Squad
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Teams spend all offseason evaluating their roster, knowing they must eventually whittle 90 men down to the best 53.
In actuality, it takes more than that.
In reality, teams rely on 63 players as 10 practice squad members play an instrumental role each week. They attend the same meetings, practice on the same field and are vital to the team.
The only difference between being on the active roster and on the practice squad is not suiting up on game day. However, this season, eight players have split time on the active roster and practice squad, including Tyreek Burwell, Greg Ducre, Javontee Herndon, Michael Ola (now with Lions), Adrian Phillips, Damion Square, Craig Watts and Tyrell Williams.
After being released at the end of training camp and joining the practice squad, Phillips has jockeyed back and forth to the 53-man squad twice already this season. It is déjà vu for him, as last year he was promoted on three occasions. While he knows the practice squad has been fortuitous to his NFL career, he explained how there is nothing quite like playing on Sunday.
“There is no better feeling in the world than when you get called up. Just to know that everything you’ve been working for, all that work you put in, it’s finally paying off. You may get put back down to the practice squad the next week, but it shows how the people upstairs have faith in you. How you are in their plans. We put in a lot of work all week and prepare all the time like we are going to be called up. You never know when your number is going to be called, so the biggest thing for us is just staying ready.”
Last week, Herndon was one of four Bolts who had their number called. The wide receiver had been a member of the practice squad since Week 1 of 2014, but for the first time knew he’d see real game action on Monday night. Nonetheless, he said he prepared the exact same way.
“There was no difference at all,” he said. “Just a little more nerves. That was it. I think fans realize how much we are a part of the team. They see us on the field, but also remember us. I think I started noticing it more this year when doing stuff for the community. They’d come up and say they remembered me from the preseason and how I worked really hard. They said how much they hoped I got an opportunity.”
Herndon also explained the deep bond that unites those on the practice squad.
“There is definitely a sense of pride because all of us know what each other went through. This past game was a big one because there were so many of us, so it was like, ‘Man, we’ve finally got this opportunity. Let’s make the most of it.’”
That opportunity for Herndon included being called upon down the stretch. With the Chargers in a two-minute offense late, he caught his very first NFL catch on a 12-yard reception good for a first down. It was positive proof for every practice squad player that they truly must be ready to pinch in at any moment.
“That was fun. I wish I could have done more, but that was a good start. That is what you definitely dream about as a kid. I didn’t know when my chance would come, but it felt good to get my opportunity.” Read