WASHINGTON — During the regular season, there are only 1,696 active roster spots and 320 practice squad positions in the NFL. That leaves a lot of promising players on the outside looking in.
Buried near the bottom of the Washington Redskins’ offseason roster is a linebacker named Lynden Trail, who appeared in just two games to close out the 2016 regular season.
His stat line isn’t much to brag about, but he did well enough to earn a roster spot heading into the offseason, which was far from guaranteed even one month ago.
While the rest of his Redskins teammates were prepping for a postseason push, Trail was riding shotgun in a UPS truck near Chesapeake, Virginia, delivering as many as 260 packages each day.
For his hard work, he was rewarded with a weekly paycheck of $270 after taxes and deductions. That’s life outside of football.
As a member of the Redskins’ practice squad, Trail was guaranteed at least $117,300 over the course of a season. For NFL rookies, a spot on the 53-man roster is worth at least $450,000.
“I remember seeing my first paycheck and going, ‘What the hell did I sign up for?'” Trail told The Virginian-Pilot in a long-ranging interview. “It made me think, ‘Yo, is this what the real world is really like? We bust our (butts), get paid basically nothing and try to make something happen with it.’ I was like, ‘Yo, I’m in a blessed position, and I’m pissed off at the same time.'”
Trail channeled that slap of reality and surge of emotion to stay in shape and get another chance. It came, several weeks later, during the peak of holiday shipping in the form of a text message from Redskins director of pro personnel Alex Santos.
“I need you on the road in the next 20 minutes.”
Trail’s shift was just beginning and the truck was full. Unfortunately, opportunities like this come around very often, and Trail wasn’t going to miss out again.
“I kind of felt bad,” Trail said, “but at the same time, it was like, ‘I have to go.'”
He left work, changed clothes and made it to Ashburn in record time. He was quizzed on the Redskins’ playbook that he hadn’t thought about in months. He showed that he was physically fit, and he was immediately pressed into duty, signed to the active roster.
Trail logged a quarterback hurry and a pass deflection on the first series of the game, earning the praise of his head coach and putting strong play on tape. More importantly, it gave him a sense of purpose and accomplishment.
“All I could think to myself is, ‘From delivering packages to quarterback hurries, pass deflections and tackles,’ ” he said. “It’s crazy.
“It made me appreciate the people who are just working 9-to-5s. But one thing I’ll say to them is that just because you’re where you’re at right now doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll be where you’re at in the future.”