Vikings Practice Squad: Football’s Purgatory

Vikings Practice Squad: Football’s Purgatory
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FROM TIME TO TIME YOU HEAR ABOUT THE VIKINGS OR OTHER NFL TEAMS SIGNING OR RELEASING THIS PLAYER OR THAT PLAYER ON THEIR PRACTICE SQUAD. IT’S ALMOST ALWAYS SOMEBODY THAT YOU NEVER HEARD OF AND YOU CARRY ON WITH YOUR DAY. AS DAVE McQUAY SHOWS US, IT IS A FASCINATING PLACE. OUT OF THE SPOTLIGHT, IN THE MARGINS OF NFL, FOOTBALLS VERSION OF PURGATORY, STUCK SOMEWHERE BETWEEN THE PROMISED LAND. Reporter: EVERY DAY THAT ISN’T AN OFF DAY, TOBY JOHNSON IS UP BY 6:15 AND OUT OF THE HOUSE BY 6:30. IT IS LESS THAN A 10 MINUTE DRIVE FROM HIS APARTMENT TO THE VIKINGS PRACTICE FACILITY THAT HE WANTS TO MAKE SURE HE IS THERE BEFORE 7. MEETINGS DON’T START UNTIL 8. I WILL ALWAYS BE UP THERE, NO MATTER IF I COME JUST TO SHOW MY FACE. I WANT GUYS TO KNOW THAT I’M A PRO, I’M SERIOUS ABOUT MY JOB AND I WANT TO DO WHATEVER I’VE GOT TO DO. Reporter: IT’S A JOB THAT FEELS LIKE A CONSTANT EDITION. AND AS HE DRIVES PAST THE PLAYERS PARKING LOT, FULL OF MERCEDES AND LAND ROVERS, HE IS REMINDED EVERY DAY WHERE HE FITS IN THE FOOD CHAIN. WE ARE COMING UP THROUGH THE BACK OF OUR PRACTICE FIELD. Reporter: PRACTICE SQUAD PLAYERS PARKING A SEPARATE LOT IN THE BACK NEXT TO THE DUMPSTERS. YOU GOT TO EARN IT. YOU’VE GOT TO EARN A SPOT UP THERE. Reporter: EACH TEAM CAN HAVE 10 PLAYERS ON ITS PRACTICE SQUAD, EACH TEAM CAN PRACTICE BUT CAN’T PLAY IN GAMES. MOST PLAYERS SHOW POTENTIAL. ANY TEAM CAN PLUCK A PLAYER OFF OF ITS PRACTICE SQUAD BUT ONLY IF THEY ADD THEM TO THE 53 MAN ROSTER. THEY GET PAID BY THE WEEKS, BUT A LOT LESS MONEY AND CAN BE RELEASED BY ANY TIME. WHICH MEANS THAT A MOMENT THEY CAN BE CUT OR UPROOTED ACROSS THE COUNTRY. AT THE SAME TIME, THEY ARE JUST ONE STEP AWAY FROM THEIR DREAM. I FEEL LIKE I AM RIGHT THERE, IT COULD BE ANY MOMENT. Reporter: THIS IS LIFE ON THE PRACTICE SQUAD. I TELL MY FAMILY I LIVE MY LIFE DAY TODAY. I TELL EVERYBODY THAT. THAT’S HOW YOU HAVE TO LIVE. Reporter: JOHNSON BOUNCED AROUND FOUR DIFFERENT TEAMS LAST YEAR, FIRST THE TITANS IN TRAINING CAMP, THEN THREE DIFFERENT PRACTICE SQUADS, EACH FOR JUST A WEEK AT A TIME. YOU WANT A CHANCE TO PLAY AND PROVE THAT YOU ARE PART OF THE LEAGUE. Reporter: ISAAC HAS GONE FROM THE LIONS, TO THE VIKINGS, BACK TO THE VIKINGS JUST THIS YEAR ALREADY. HE IS LIVING OUT OF TWO DUFFEL BAGS. EVERYTHING, YOUR CAR, RENT, YOU CAN’T GET LOCKED INTO IT. RENTING A CAR? YOU DID NOT EVEN BUY A CAR? I DID NOT EVEN BUY A CAR. MONTH TO MONTH. THIS IS HOW WE LIVE IT. Reporter: THIS IS ACTUALLY LIVING PRETTY GOOD FOR A PRACTICE SQUAD PLAYER. THE GUYS USUALLY LIVE IN AN EXTENDED STAY HOTEL BUT WHEN THE HOTEL NEEDED THE ROOM IS FOR THE RYDER CUP, THEY ALL MOVED OUT AND GOT APARTMENTS. LIVING IN A HOTEL IS NOT THE WAY TO LIVE. Reporter: JOHNSON AND FELLOW PLAYER, FASSON, RENTED TWO ROOMS NEXT TO EDEN PRAIRIE, KIND OF FITTING, MONTH TO MONTH OF COURSE. HOW MUCH OF THIS FURNITURE IS YOURS? ZERO. I DON’T OWN ANYTHING IN HERE BUT MY CLOTHES. THAT’S ONE OF THE THINGS YOU’VE GOT TO LOOK FOR. EVERYTHING HAS TO BE FULLY FURNISHED. IT LOOKED LIKE A FEMALE DECORATED IN HERE. Reporter: THE REASON YOU DO NOT BRING YOUR OWN STUFF? JULIAN WILSON ASSIGNED WITH THE VIKINGS PRACTICE SQUAD IN SEPTEMBER. I GOT FURNITURE, EVERYTHING, GETTING IT SHIPPED, ALL OF MY CLOTHES AND SHOES. WHEN I CAME HERE I SAID, NO. I’M TAKING TWO DUFFEL BAGS AND EVERYTHING ELSE I WILL GET AS I GO. Reporter: TWO DAYS AFTER DOING THIS INTERVIEW, WILSON WAS GONE AGAIN, RELEASED TO MAKE ROOM FOR FRICHTE. TO BE HONEST WITH YOU, I DID NOT EVEN UNPACK MY SUITCASE UNTIL I MOVED INTO — OUT OF THE HOTEL RECENTLY. Reporter: FOR ALL THAT INSECURITY, THEY MAKE PENNIES ON THE DOLLAR COMPARED TO THEIR TEAMMATES, $6900 PER WEEK, TO WHICH YOU MIGHT SAY, THAT SOUNDS PRETTY GOOD, BUT WITH LITTLE ASSURANCE YOU WILL BE AROUND NEXT WEEK, YOU CAN’T EXACTLY LIVE LARGE. I DRIVE A 2002 NISSAN ALTIMA. Reporter: NOT THE GLAMOROUS LIFE YOU WOULD EXPECT IN THE NFL. YOU’VE GOT EVERYTHING ON HERE, MERCEDES, BENTLEYS, I DRIVE A NISSAN. THE CAR AIN’T BAD. FOR A NORMAL PERSON, YOU BE LIKE, THIS IS A GREAT CAR. AND YOU PULL UP AND YOU SEE ALL OF THIS STUFF, IT’S LIKE, I’M GOING TO PARK MY CAR WAY ON THE OTHER SIDE. I AIN’T GOING TO SAY THE NAME BUT I SAW ANOTHER GUY, IT WAS, 9000 SOMETHING FOR TWO WEEKS. Reporter: THIS IS GAME DAY. CAN I GET A LARGE SUPREME? Reporter: SINCE PRACTICE SQUAD PLAYERS DON’T TRAVEL TO ROAD GAMES, THEY WATCH THEIR TEAMS FROM HOME ON THE COUCH. GOOD JOB! IT MAKES ME ANXIOUS. ME, TOO. Reporter: AT PRACTICE, A LOT OF TIMES THEY ARE NOT EVEN RUNNING THE VIKINGS OFFENSE OR DEFENSE BUT RATHER THE UPCOMING OPPONENTS ON THE SCOUT TEAM. THEY SHOW US WHAT THE OTHER TEAM DOES AND THEN WE EXECUTE THE PLAY. Reporter: THAT USUALLY MEANS IMITATING AN OPPOSING PLAYER, LIKE WHEN FRICHTE WAS ODELL BECKHAM JR. OR WHEN IT WAS UP TO JOEL STAVE TO MIMIC CAM NEWTON. HE DID THE BEST HE COULD. [ LAUGHTER ] Reporter: ALL THE WHILE, TRYING TO DO IT SO WELL THAT THE COACHES TAKE NOTICE, ALWAYS TRYING TO PROVE YOURSELF, JUST WAITING FOR YOUR CHANCE. WHENEVER I GET MY OPPORTUNITY I’M NOT LETTING GO. IT COULD BE ANY TIME. IN AIN’T EVEN GOT TO BE THIS YEAR, IT COULD BE NEXT YEAR. BUT I GOT TO SHOW THE COACHES I KNOW WHAT I’M DOING, I KNOW HOW TO BE A PRO EVEN THOUGH I’M NOT ON THE 53, I’VE GOT THOSE ASPECTS OF BEING ON THE 53. Reporter: THE NFL IS FULL OF PRACTICE SQUAD SUCCESS STORIES, TONY ROMO, JAMES HARRISON, ARIAN FOSTER, AS WELL AS ALEX BOONE, ANDERSON DAY WHO, AND ADAM P LIND, WHO LIVED — OUT OF THE LIND, WHO LIVED IN HIS COUSIN’S BASEMENT WHILE HE WAS ON THE PRACTICE SQUAD. IS EASY TO GET FRUSTRATED BECAUSE A LOT OF THESE GUYS HAD BEEN THE MAN THEIR WHOLE LIFE, HIGH SCHOOL PLAYING EVERY SNAP, COLLEGE PLAYING EVERY SNAP, YOU CAN’T EVEN PLAY IN A GAME. IT’S FRUSTRATING BUT GOOD THINGS WILL HAPPEN IF YOU STAY CONSISTENT AND KEEP WORKING HARD. YOU HEAR THOSE STORIES AND YOU JUST BE LIKE, MAN, YOU CAN DO IT. THE ONLY THING YOU DO IS WORK HARD, LISTEN TO WHAT THE COACHES DO, WORK HARD AND DO IT. Reporter: LIFE ON THE PRACTICE SQUAD IS A PRECARIOUS ONE AT BEST BUT THEY ALL SAY IT’S WORTH IT TO CHASE A DREAM. YOU CAN’T COMPLAIN ABOUT HAVING A CHANCE TO PLAY IN THE NFL. IS A DIFFERENT WORLD BUT YOU ARE THANKFUL EVERY DAY. Reporter: DAVID McCOY, WCCO 4 SPORTS.

3 thoughts on “Vikings Practice Squad: Football’s Purgatory

  1. I can’t speak for them, but if I was in their position I literally would be training my ass off ever second of the day. Why watch the game on tv when you could be training getting better .. C’mon

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