The Inglorious Role of an NFL Backup Player

GLENDALE, AZ - AUGUST 17: Center Scott Wedige #66 of the Arizona Cardinals waits to take the field prior to the NFL preseason game against the Oakland Raiders at the University of Phoenix Stadium on August 17, 2012 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

This preseason about 1196 athletes are competing for a spot on an NFL roster. There are 320 more than seasons in the past due to the expansion of preseason rosters from 80 players to 90 players under the rules of the new collective bargaining agreement. About 1696 players are fighting to keep their roster spot.

Combine those numbers and you have about 2892 athletes competing to play in the NFL. At least 25 players, give or take a few players like key backups and special team players, from each team are a lock. That's about 800 players out of 2892, or 28 percent, that are locked in to their teams rosters.

While this is a pretty obvious stat it can be over looked, 72 percent of NFL players are backups, practice squad players and camp bodies.

Last weekend I was in San Diego on a trip and knowing I was going to miss the local broadcast I did everything in my power to find a local sports bar to watch the Cardinals game against the Oakland Raiders.

It wasn't hard to miss me because I was yelling at Kevin Kolb to pass the ball and cheering the defense very audibly (I'm a very animated fan). I was definitely getting the he-must-be-crazy look from everyone in the bar.

I was approached by a patron of the bar and he asked about the Cardinals and how big of a fan I was. I gave him the you-must-be-crazy look I was getting from everyone because didn't he just see me yelling at a TV? Over a preseason football game?

When the patron found out about my love of the team he lit up; his friend is UDFA Scott Wedige out of Northern Illinois. Both played high school football together in Illinois and he had just spoken with Wedige before he had entered camp.

The patron asked me what I thought Wedige chances were and I told him in my honest opinion I didn't think they were good. The Cardinals only carry eight offensive lineman and generally the backups are versatile guys. Upon hearing my answer the patron began telling me how versatile Wedige was.

It was at that moment I realized how big of a deal preseason was for many of the fringe athletes and the people that care about them and not just for crazy die-hard fans like myself and many of the fans on this forum.

To some fans many of these guys are just names, to some coaches many of these guys are just camp bodies, but to friends and family these guys are much more. A persons entire life changes once they make an NFL roster. Imagine going from $155 a day (per practice/meeting) to over $5000 a week for 17 months. Getting signed to the active roster can bump a player from around $88,000 a season to over $400,000 a season.

Whether these guys make a roster is what it is. In American sports we only want to see the best play. I hope Wedige makes the roster, but I understand and respect the culture of the game. Only the best get on the roster and only the very best play. And if you're the best, you get paid.

It's hard to feel bad for a guy making $88,000 a season playing the game he loves. It's even harder to feel bad for a guy getting over $400,000 a season. Regardless of what they get paid, I respect the athletes that go out and contribute with little-to-no-fanfare and the knowledge that they may not make the roster.

So cheers to Scott Wedige and the other 1195 guys that help make the professional game of football better even if they never make a roster. They get paid and we get the best entertainment there is.

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