ATLANTA — When kids dream of becoming professional football players, they obviously think about playing in games, not practicing.
But that’s not the reality for all NFL players. Some players need to start off — or spend their entire careers — as scout-team players.
One Patriots player who has spent the bulk of his NFL career on the scout team is offensive lineman James Ferentz.
“To me, for a lot of guys, we’re not able to contribute on game day,” Ferentz said. “And our role is to get the team ready throughout the rest of the week. Now, and the honest truth is, we may not like that role, but it is our role. And if you’re going to have a role, why not be the best at it? So, for me, we really owe it to our teammates to give them a great look, give them what they need to see to prepare them on Sunday because when game day comes, there’s literally nothing we’ll be able to do to help them.”
We asked Patriots players who are the best scout team players they ever practiced against. Some of players you’ve definitely heard of, and some are still on the Patriots’ active roster or practice squad.
Here are their answers.
WR Matthew Slater: “Well, I mean, the guy who did a ton of scout team when we were young is this guy (Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman). And he was doing offense, defense. He wouldn’t come off the field. And at the time, Wes was kind of the guy. Not kind of, Wes was the man. And I’d think, ‘Man, this guy practices hard. This guy competes, man. Like diving around, throwing his body around, runs, never gets tired.’ It was like, ‘Man, he might be OK one day.’ And here we are. He’s OK.”
SS Patrick Chung: “Ten years, I can’t name just one, though. (Patriots tight end) Steve Anderson’s pretty good. (Patriots offensive lineman) Ted Karras is pretty good. He works hard too. He’s gonna grind too. He works hard. Those are recent. See, I don’t go against all the receivers, so I can’t really be like telling you all those things. Oh, (quarterback) Brian Hoyer’s good. Sometimes we get a little mad at him. He’s slinging the ball. Now I gotta go back through years. Oh crap. Yeah, (San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo). Jimmy was the man.”
CB Stephon Gilmore: “I would say a quarterback. Jimmy Baby. He was hard to go against in practice. He could make all the throws.”
LB Ramon Humber: “Yeah, (linebacker) Todd Davis. He plays for Denver. We (the New Orleans Saints) had him on the active roster, tried to put him back on practice squad, sneak him and I already knew someone was going to take him, and sure enough, Denver did.”
LT Trent Brown: “(Free agent defensive end) Marcus Rush. One of the best pass rushers I’ve ever gone against. I don’t why — he should be on a 53 somewhere. Make sure you quote that. Put it in there. He needs that love, for real.”
FS Devin McCourty: “I don’t know, but I always thought it was pretty cool that (Denver Broncos wide receiver) Andre Holmes that was here as a practice (squad player), (Oakland Raiders) cornerback Rashaan) Melvin was here. Those guys, just fighting. And then you look up and they’re on teams, making plays, doing things, so I always loved seeing guys like that. Even like watching (Indianapolis Colts cornerback) Kenny Moore. Even though he wasn’t a scout team player, per se, he was in training camp. But watching him in that playoff game, he was the best guy on their defense out there. That always is a proud moment for me, seeing that.”
CB Jason McCourty: “The nose tackle for the Dallas Cowboys, Antwaun Woods. He was a guy that I was in Tennessee when he was a rookie and played really well, undrafted kid. Then it was like, ‘Are we going to keep him? Are we not?’ He stayed on the team as a practice squad. Next year, I remember talking to him, I think I was gone, and he was just like, ‘I thought I was playing really good. Just never really got a shot.’ Ends up getting released, gets picked up in Dallas and just had a hell of a year this year. I think there’s numerous cases like that, but he’s the most recent guy when you see that, you’re just extremely happy for guys like that.”
TE Stephen Anderson: “I can only refer to Houston, but Brandon Dunn, he was a defensive tackle. I think he was on scout team for two years. Always disruptive, always coming to work every single day. That’s really what it is on scout team.”
OL James Ferentz: “There was a (defensive tackle) out in Denver named Kyle Peko. I know he’s bounced around on a couple practice squads now. He’s been on (the Buffalo Bills’) active roster now. I don’t know if it’s because we’re both like almost 6 foot. So, we kind of relate to each other in that sense. But he’s a guy who took a lot of pride in his job. I think it’s not fair to name one guy, but there’s a lot of guys out there who take a lot of pride in their work and how they go about their business every day, but Kyle is definitely one who stood out to me among guys I went against when I was preparing.”
LB Albert McClellan: “(Practice squad linebacker) Calvin Munson, he comes in every week and gives his all. He’s a guy since I’ve been here that I’ve been watching that, ‘OK, I like the way you practice.’ I probably need to match his tempo a lot more. He’s a guy that I can see who hard work is really going to help him out in the long run.”
DE Adrian Clayborn: “I guess Hoyer. He does a great job. When I was in Atlanta, (quarterback) Matt Schaub. They both do a great job of kind of taking over that quarterback’s mind or tried to at least and imitated as much as they can and, they’re giving us a good look. I’d say definitely those two veteran quarterbacks.”
LB Dont’a Hightower: “I’ll say for this year DP (practice squad wide receiver Damoun Patterson). DP is awesome. He’s smoke. He’s fast. He’s got great hands and definitely gives us a great look.”
C David Andrews: “I think Frank’s been doing a really great job. It’s kind of hard for me year to year, but I’d say (practice squad defensive tackle) Frank Herron’s been giving us a really good look this year. I think he’s got a lot of potential.”
LB Elandon Roberts: “It’s not really scout team, because these guys are really playing, but in practice, like on every day, always, that guy that’s giving is trouble is Ted. Ted from an O-line standpoint and stuff like that. Any back that’s in always give us a good look, especially me because one day it might be Sony (Michel). Another day, it might be James (White) and then it might be Rex (Burkhead), so you get that different type of back. It’s definitely challenging, but at the same time it’s getting me better.”
DE Trey Flowers: “We’ve got a lot of good guys in the locker room — Ted Karras, he gives great looks week in and week out. (offensive tackle LaAdrian) Waddle, he definitely gives a great look. (Offensive lineman) Cole Croston, Ferentz. A whole lot of guys give a great look, and they understand the importance of giving us their best so we can be prepared when we show up for games.
WR Chris Hogan: “I’ve been around a lot of different guys. It’s tough to put one. I’ve been around a lot of guys who have really — and not that they were scout-team players, but guys who just kind of molded themselves into good players. (Cornerback) Jonathan Jones. I think (rookie cornerbacks) Keion (Crossen) and Duke (Dawson). I think both of them are very good players that I think can use that underdog mentality and the reps that they get there in practice. I personally think they’re both going to be very good players. I know (rookie cornerback) JC (Jackson)’s done a lot of things this year and been a playmaker for us, but I don’t think anyone expected him to be in that role. I think he’s going to be a great player. I think all of those guys have a good head on their shoulders. They’re going to continue to work hard throughout their career, and if they continue to do that, they’ll be very, very successful.”
LB Kyle Van Noy: “I think that’s all of us. All of us, we go in and out. Gronk (tight end Rob Gronkowski) goes in and out. (Quarterback) Tom (Brady) goes in and out. Hoyer, the linemen, Ted does a good job. I can’t pinpoint one guy, because everyone is a part of that, and that’s the beauty of getting better and playing here is that everybody wants to contribute whether their name’s called to be that scouting report guy that week.”
OL Ted Karras: “I think two guys from this year are especially Frank Herron and (defensive end) Trent Harris are exceptional on scout team. I have a lot of respect for them. They do a great job for us. And then last year, (defensive tackle) Adam Butler as a rookie and just Adam Butler in general is just always causing fits.”
OT Marcus Cannon: “All of them? Our scout team, the guys here on our team who end up in those roles, they’re on our team, but they’re in those roles, they all give it their all. It’s hard. Every practice is hard for us. Our guys, Trent, when (defensive end Deatrich) Wise is out there. Sometimes we get some of the guys who play more than the other ones out there.”
DE Deatrich Wise Jr.: “Our whole scout team is phenomenal. Our scout team can play with anybody in the league. You have cats like (offensive lineman) Brian (Schwenke), James, Cole, Skip (offensive tackle Dan Skipper), those guys work hard daily in and out. And scout team isn’t just like people who don’t play. It’s people who actually play in the games actually are on scout team. Scout team’s one of those things, it’s a selfless thing people, and it’s mostly they’re needed to give a good look. I can be on scout team. Trey can be on scout team. Anybody can be on scout team. But the guys I’ve faced on scout team like Damoun Patterson, (quarterback) Danny Etling, two cats who have been working their butts off this whole season. Really big ups to those guys.”
DT Danny Shelton: “James Ferentz. He’s been a guy that’s been really competing every week and has been doing his job as far as giving us a great look. I appreciate all the work he’s done because he gets grimy especially up in the middle. He’s one of those guys that can battle it out and continue to battle it out. He’s got a great motor and super strong guy. I’ve been really appreciative of having an opportunity to work against a guy like him.”
QB Brian Hoyer: “For the most part, I think those guys do a good job, especially here. If they’re doing a good job, then do you want them to give you a hard time? No, but you just want them to give you a good look. I think if people are trying to give you a good look, then they’re not giving you a hard time, they’re just giving you an honest look. The guys who don’t really care about the team and are out for themselves and trying to — the guys who cheat the card or whatever, you can always tell that, but I can’t think of one specific guy.”