Cornerback Marcus Sherels is no stranger to being a player on the bubble. In his three seasons with the Vikings, Labor Day weekend has entailed waiting for the phone not to ring and hoping he is still part of the labor process with the Vikings.
The last two seasons, he hasn't got the call he has feared. He hopes this time it will be the same, but the circumstances this year are very different.
Sherels missed the Vikings game with San Francisco last week after his father passed away and he was given an excused absence to attend the funeral. But, despite playing with a lot on his mind, Sherels was instrumental in the Vikings' 24-23 win over Tennessee, returning the opening kickoff of the second half an NFL record-tying 109 yards and intercepting a pass in the third quarter.
He said the loss of his father has weighed heavily on his mind, but his Vikings family has helped him through the dark days.
"It's been tough," Sherels said. "But with my teammates and the organization and the coaches, they've all helped me tremendously. They made it a lot easier."
His ability to perform while still in mourning has endeared him to his teammates and head coach Leslie Frazier, who said that those who have gone through similar tragic circumstances were able to help Sherels with his grief.
"Everybody loves the way Marcus competes," Frazier said. "We are all pulling for him. He was playing with a heavy heart with losing his father and then being at the funeral last week. It's been tough for him. We've got some other guys that have lost parents on our team, so they know what he's going through. To see him make those plays, our whole sideline was just jubilant to see him come out and play the way he did knowing what was on his mind and what this week has been like for him."
Now Sherels will spend the weekend as he has the last two Labor Day Saturdays – waiting and hoping his phone doesn't ring with a Winter Park number on the other end. Although he has been through the experience already, it never gets to the point that it doesn't play on his worst fears.
"You obviously get nervous," Sherels said. "But right now, I'm not really too nervous. You can't be. It's out of my hands. I've put enough on tape and it's not my decision to make."
One thing Sherels does have in his favor is timing. It seems like every time he needed to make plays to make roster, he has delivered and Thursday night just continued that tradition. He always seems to play his best when his back is against the wall to make the roster or not.
"I always feel like that," Sherels said of his uncanny big-play timing. "You always try to make plays when you're given the opportunity. Today was a chance and I took advantage of that. I like it that way. It makes me a better player, it makes me get extra work in and I embrace it."
With Sherels once again on the bubble, Frazier acknowledged that he seems to save his best when it is needed most and the Titans game was no exception.
"It seems like every year you come in and wonder if he's going to make it this time," Frazier said. "Who is going to push him and maybe take his spot on the roster? He finds a way to make the plays (with) his effort and his preparation. He does a good job in so many areas. He's a multi-dimensional guy."
Sherels has nothing special planned over the next couple of days, except to stay by his phone for the call he hopes not to receive. He's done what he can do. He's put it on film. The chips will fall where they may – for better or worse.
"It's the same as it's been the last three years for me," Sherels said. "It's not really in my hands and it's out of my control. I just sit and wait and we'll see."
If nothing else, Sherels said he gave his father a send-off he could be proud of. He looked skyward after scoring his return touchdown and sent a special fist pump in the air to his father.
"I know he's watching and he's happy," Sherels said.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Sherels endures tragedy, performs well
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