'All Right, Dane, Get in There'
Ex-Terp Randolph Impresses Packers in Preseason
Thursday, August 20, 2009
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Around Lambeau Field they call it the Green Mile, an oblong alcove tucked off the main locker room of the Green Bay Packers. At training camp, it is where the team relegates its undrafted players, its longest of shots, those with only the faintest of hope of making the final roster.
If nothing else, the title has a metaphorical relevance. For while it is only a few steps across the green carpet to the football-shaped cathedral where the Packers' veterans and draft picks dress, the distance must seem like a mile indeed.
Sitting at his locker inside the Green Mile, former University of Maryland right tackle Dane Randolph can barely see a sliver of the main room; such is the geometry of the alcove's oddly cut corners. His world is instead filled with the other giant men of second-tier stature who cram into the tiny space, pulling on pads and cleats -- sometimes bumping elbows -- before tromping outside to the practice fields across the street.
After the euphoria of surviving a 22-player tryout in May just to land one of four final spots on the Packers' training camp roster, Randolph's current challenge is even more daunting.
Of the 80 players currently in camp, only 53 will be on the Packers roster when their season starts Sept. 13. This means almost everybody inside the Green Mile is going to be cut. On the offensive line, where Randolph plays, there are 14 players fighting for probably just nine spots. To get one of them, he will undoubtedly have to beat out a player who was on the team last season. And in the hierarchy of NFL camps, those players usually get the bulk of the plays in practice and in preseason games, leaving Randolph with few chances to impress.
For a few days he tried to compute these odds before giving up. What was the point? He decided he would simply practice as hard as he could and absorb everything taught to him in the drone of the daily position meetings. This is his nature, cheerful and optimistic; too positive to dread the cutdowns looming in the first week of September. The way he sees it, if he's impressive enough, maybe they'll just have to keep him.
Plus, he's having so much fun.
It is odd to find a player who can find joy in an NFL training camp. Even the most dedicated athletes, those for whom the game is all-consuming, hate the monotony of these weeks with their twice-daily practices under the summer sun. And yet two days before the Packers' first exhibition game, the first real test of his camp, Randolph laughed as he sat in the Green Mile.
"It is strange," he agreed. "The more [plays] I get, the tireder I get and yet the more happy I am."
Everything is exciting. Last week, when offensive line coach James Campen told the five undrafted offensive linemen they were going to be part of the "look" or scout team, running the offensive plays of the preseason's first opponent -- Cleveland -- Randolph was thrilled. While the look team is the lowest stratum in an NFL camp, it also means extra chances to play in practice. And when Campen had the five of them run 32 plays in the scorching summer heat that first day, Randolph wanted more.
His barren dormitory room at St. Norbert College in nearby De Pere doesn't even have a television, leaving him and his assigned roommate, left tackle Jamon Meredith, to study their playbooks together. One night, Meredith explained some of the pass-blocking principles to Randolph and Randolph helped Meredith with the run plays.
What they don't talk about is the obvious fact that if one somehow makes the team, the other is all but certain to be cut.