It's a dream half come true. Getting on an NFL practice squad means you get to play with NFL players, but you can't actually get on the field during games and you make about $64,000 a year, far less than the $225,000 minimum the "real" players get and not enough to cover Dwight Freeney's greens fees.
It's not a bad job for a young man, but the constant reminder of how much better the guys you sweat and bump heads with have it that it can make you work much harder (or kill your spirit). The guys on the practice squad are either the stars of tomorrow or the footnotes in a future media guides.
The Colts are famously adept at finding unheralded talent and could well benefit from the eight guys they currently have on their practice squad. According to NFL rules, after each team finishes playing their last game of the season, they have one week to work out a new contract with the practice squad members they want to bring back for the next season. After a week, any unsigned practice squad player becomes an unrestricted free agent. Here's a quick field guide for the Colts' eight players, in alphabetical order:
Devin Aromashodu: He's a big, fast wide receiver who shows incredible raw talent but so far hasn't shown much toughness and refinement. Since the Colts have just two wide receivers they can depend upon — Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne and the next-best guy, oft-injured Brandon Stokely — the ball is solidly in Aromashodu's court. If he can return it by showing he can run NFL-quality routes, be bold in the area between the hash marks and catch better than the Aaron Mooreheads of the world, he has a good chance of sticking in 2007.
Josh Betts: Few people in the world can throw a football as far or accurately as this guy. His arm is absolutely outstanding. However, the last time (okay, every time) I saw Betts play, he showed a limited understanding of every part of quarterback play -- other than throwing the ball where he wanted it to be. If that brings up horrible memories of Jeff George, rest at ease — Betts doesn't seem to be a jerk at all. But he is a terribly inexperienced quarterback who needs to show he's learned the nuances (okay, the fundamentals) of the position. If he's shown over this season he's got a better handle on the game, he could force the Colts to create a No. 3 quarterback job for him.
Albert Bimper: Most teams would dismiss him as small and injury prone, but the Colts see an intelligent, courageous young man who understands offenses, keeps his feet moving and knows how to use his hands. While most practice squad guys are talented players who need to learn the game, Bimper is the opposite. He's technically sound, but needs to show he has the functional strength and durability in order to make a serious bid for a roster spot.
Kory Chapman: Undrafted after a big season at Jacksonville State, Chapman looked like a star in the NFL Europe and an up-and-comer in the 2005 preseason with the Patriots (29-130-0 rushing). Since then, he's been hanging around the Colts, but really hasn't done much. Considering the injuries that have struck Colts' backfield and the limitations of the players there, the fact that Chapman has had zero regular-season carries, receptions and returns in that period could indicate they don't have much faith in him. From what I've seen, Chapman is a pretty good one-cut runner who lacks the size, receiving and blocking skills to earn much playing time. While he has a decent chance of being asked back for 2007, I'd be surprised if he makes the team in September.
Tanard Davis: If you've seen Davis on the field, consider yourself lucky — he hasn't had much playing time and when he has played, he's so fast all you're likely to see is a blur. While Davis' workout numbers are eye-popping (start with the 4.25 forty and work from there), he really has shown little ability to play football. Although it would be foolhardy to bet on him become an NFL-quality position player (he's been tried at wideout and corner), he has the potential to be an Allen Rossum/Devin Hester-style return specialist and occasional special-teams tackler.
Aaron Halterman: While most Colts tight end prospects are all about catching the ball and running with it, Halterman can actually throw a decent block. While he wasn't a huge part of the offense at Indiana University, Halterman proved to be a valued third-down option in NFL Europe. If he responds to coaching, Halterman could compete with raw but talented Jerome Collins for a roster spot in 2007.
Luke Lawton:In the past, the Colts have invited all-block/no-run fullbacks to camp and found them wanting. Lawton's a little different as he's more of a runner and receiver. While he won't remind anyone of Barry Sanders, he can find a hole and does some nice work on short-yardage, a talent the Colts have lacked since the days of Roosevelt Potts. While the Colts clearly are in the market for a big back who can move the pile, Lawton would have to show a lot more agility and athleticism (not to mention better hands) than I've seen from him to make a serious assault on a roster spot.
Michael Toudouze: When the Colts drafted him in the fifth round last April, I was cautiously optimistic. I mean, he was a great big strong lug with some natural athleticism, but he played the game as though he picked it up the day before. He has all the natural talent to compete for an NFL roster spot, but very little game smarts and discipline. My hope was that he'd respond to offensive line coach Howard Mudd's much-revered tutelage, but early signs have not been promising. When the Colts were desperate for depth at tackle, they promoted Dan Federkeil who was last seen playing defensive end in the CFL. Toudouze will almost certainly be invited back this summer, but will have to show more than he did this season to stick.
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