No glory: They practice all week, watch on Sunday Print
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Tuesday, 27 January 2009 22:53
NFL Headline News

 TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -Doug Legursky is sitting in the stands during media day at Raymond James Stadium, wearing a Super Bowl cap and gazing down on the Steelers everyone knows so well: Ben Roethlisberger, Hines Ward, James Harrison.
The rookie lineman is used to the view.
``This is exactly how it is on Sundays,'' Legursky said, musing about his plight. ``Hopefully I'll get there one day.''
For now, he's a weekday warrior.
Legursky and his ilk are members of the practice squad, those on-the-fringe, oft-rejected guys who spend the week helping their teammates get ready to play, then morph into spectators once the game actually kicks off. They can do all the work in practice - actually, they probably do more than the regulars - but they don't share in the glory.
Legursky is a center hoping to make it with the Steelers; defensive lineman Keilen Dykes is another rookie who's been on the Cardinals' practice squad all season.
``It's a very humbling experience,'' Dykes said. ``But some players have to go through it. Some players have to go through the back door. We can't all go through the front door.''
Back door? Arizona tight end Alex Shor must feel like he's been left out on the stoop.
Three years removed from his college days at Syracuse, he's yet to play in an NFL game. When asked how many times he's been cut, Shor struggles for the answer.
``Geez,'' he said. ``Uhhh, one, two, three. I think it's three or four. I try not to think about that too much.''
If nothing else, the practice squader learns the benefit of positive thinking, never losing sight of his NFL dreams even while his very place in his pro life suggests he's not quite good enough to make it.
For those who do it right, it can be just as beneficial as a redshirt year in college. They get a chance to hone their skills against top competition, try out numerous schemes in their role on the scout team and work on whatever weaknesses are keeping them off the field.
e Steelers. He didn't play at all through the first month of the regular season, finally deciding to try his luck with an arena team. While in Michigan for a workout, Pittsburgh called back.
The Steelers had some injuries and wanted to sign him to the practice squad. Legursky probably made it to the plane before they had time to hang up the phone.
``I want to be that player who helps a team win a championship,'' he said. ``If you don't have those goals, then you're cutting yourself short.''
Pittsburgh receiver Martin Nance actually reached the promised land his rookie season, starting a game for the Minnesota Vikings in 2006.
``I didn't know I was starting 'til after the kickoff,'' he recalled. ``The coach said, 'You're starting. Go out there with the first group.' That kind of helped with the nerves. I didn't have a chance to get very nervous. And I played pretty well, too.''
A quick check of the record book shows Nance's recollection of the game is right on target. He caught four passes for 33 yards, two of them for first downs.
And that's where his resume ends. Nance didn't play at all for the Vikings in 2007, then was cut by the team during the most recent preseason. He signed on with the Steelers but spent the entire year on the practice squad, usually portraying the opponent's top receiver in practice.
sonating Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin, trying to give the Steelers defense a fleeting look at the sort of challenges they'll face going up against two of the NFL's best receivers.
It's not easy. After all, Boldin and Fitzgerald usually put up bigger numbers in any given game than Nance has produced in his entire career.
``Obviously, those guys have talent that can't be simulated on the practice field,'' Nance conceded. ``I just try my best to give the defense a good look.''
The players on the 53-man roster are most appreciative of the effort.
``They play a big role,'' said free safety Ryan Clark, himself a former member of the practice squad. ``There's a lot of stuff in practice you don't have enough players to do. ... Those guys probably work harder than anybody at practice because they have a lot more jobs.''
Come the weekend, their work is done.
Practice-squad players are able to attend home games, but usually watch from the stands (they'll have a spot on the sidelines for the Super Bowl). When their team goes on the road, they stay behind.
During those Sundays, some get together to watch the game on television at a local restaurant or watering hole. Others just tune in from the comfort of their couch, relishing the impact they made - even if hardly anyone else knows about it.
tive. I know what to expect. I know what's coming. I'm telling my wife, 'Oh, we're about to go deep here.' Or, 'We're about to try to hit Hines across the middle on this play.' It's a fun way to view a game.''
``It's frustrating at times,'' said receiver Lance Long, an undrafted rookie from Mississippi State who's spent the entire year on Arizona's practice unit. ``But it's just a blessing to be here. I always put things in perspectives. I'm so happy to be part of this organization, this team. I know my time will come. I also know what my role is this year, and that's to get these guys ready week in and week out.''
He glances toward the field, where Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner is holding court at a podium, surrounded by dozens of media members.
Who knows? One of the regulars could go down with an injury this week. Someone from the P-squad could get an emergency summons.
``At the last minute, a guy could get the call-up and be in the big show,'' Nance said, his voice oozing with optimism. ``You have to prepare for that as well. Guys are kind of on edge when they think about the possibility.''

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