This is nothing new for Kapri Bibbs. The fifth-year running back entered the league undrafted out of Colorado State and has had to earn his way onto a roster every single season. He was cut, added to the practice squad and activated from the practice squad repeatedly in three seasons with the Broncos. He was traded to the 49ers in 2017 and cut at the end of camp. The Redskins picked him up for the practice squad in November and activated him in December.
Such is life for players on the edge of making a 53-man NFL roster, although the pressure increases this week, the final one before cuts take place. The Redskins play the Ravens in their final preseason game on Thursday, and cuts must be made by 4 p.m. on Saturday.
The pressure of the week can weigh heavily on some.
“It all just depends on how you’re built,” Bibbs said. “That’s what makes up people’s career sometimes, how they are under pressure. Me as an individual, I do not see situations and games like this to be a make-or-break game or anything like that. I take it as another game that I get to play in my career, that I get to go out and show more coaches what I’m capable of doing. I never look at a game and be like, ‘oh, this is so much pressure.’ I’ve been doing this my whole life . . . I don’t’ try to ever make a situation bigger than it is. It’s just always the same.”
Bibbs recently had a cousin shot to death, one of several loved ones he has lost to violence. He was in the foster care system as a child. Those real-life situations have helped him keep the game of football in perspective. Bibbs said he doesn’t stress or feel pressured when on the bubble. He’s there again this year following the addition of Adrian Peterson to the running back group. The team is likely only going to keep four backs, and Peterson and Chris Thompson are locks. That leaves former starter Rob Kelley, Samaje Perine, Bibbs and Byron Marshall all vying for the final two spots.
Bibbs is playing it cool and just wants to make every play possible in the final preseason game, proving the type of versatile back he can be. But he has also seen the pressure of the week wear on teammates.
“Absolutely, you definitely see guys who let that pressure affect them and you see it in them,” Bibbs said. “You see the change in their eyes.”
The Redskins have plenty of decisions to make by Saturday. The starters on both sides of the ball are pretty well set, but there are position battles at running back, linebacker and in the secondary for those final spots. As much as players may want to act calm, Coach Jay Gruden says he can see the situation affecting people.
“They are pressing a little bit, but they should be,” Gruden said. “There’s great competitions, not only for the 53, but there’s 10 practice squad spots to be had, too. And that’s a pretty good gig also. … A lot of times they get in there for two or three plays at the end of a drill or what have you, but now we can look at them for a whole half or whole game, a lot of them.
“You try not to predetermine, you want to let these guys play it out to the bitter end. That’s kind of what we’re doing. Injuries will play part of it. Numbers at certain positions will play a part of it. … The numbers at each position is the most difficult [factor].”
Zach Vigil has also been in this situation before, with the Dolphins, Bills and Redskins. The linebacker was undrafted out of Utah State in 2015 and signed with the Dolphins. He has to prove himself year-in and year-out. His goal for the week is to be more productive and do a good job of making the play calls from the inside linebacker position. Vigil said he’s proven that he belongs in the league, whether it’s in Washington or elsewhere. He said he has tried to pass on that insight to the younger guys.
“This fourth preseason game for a lot of guys, it’s not just this team watching the film,” Vigil said. “There’s 31 other teams out there watching the tape, and all you’ve got to do is catch the eye of somebody else and make them fall in love with you, and that’s how you stick around in this league.”
A part of that, he said, is not letting the pressure get to you.
“If you play tight, you’re not going to play well,” Vigil said.
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