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Published on 08/11/2010 at Wed Aug 11 15:52.
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Lance Ball runs during practice at Dove Valley. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Lance Ball runs during practice at Dove Valley. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

In the NFL a team consists of 60 some players, countless amounts of coaches, trainers and a doctor. The business side is an owner, a general manager, a press office, the sales team, web team and the list goes on…

Though it can be argued that the thankless position lies in the public relations office or concessions, the real thankless position lies on the practice squad. If you don’t believe me think back to the last time an NFL P.R. person put their life or body on the line for a story.

The practice squad is full of some the greatest football players the NFL has ever known. They’re good enough to make it into the league; they’re extraordinary in that they’re in that less than 1% of college football players who actually get to continue on professionally… Yet, all they get in return for putting their body, their mind and their lives on the line is practice.

Study next week’s opponent, not so you can play against them, but so you can play like them. Study next week’s opponent; not because you want to beat them, but because you want to be them.

This is the life of a practice squad player in the NFL.

One of those players was kind enough to spend a bit of time with me last weekend.

His name is Lance Ball, you may not know him, but you should. Josh McDaniels does and he hand picked him amongst everyone that was available to play on his team.

(Interview after the break)

Ian Henson: You have been lucky enough to be privy to some of the top offenses in the NFL playing for the Indianapolis Colts, Tennessee Titans and now Josh McDaniels Denver Broncos; what do you think is different about the Broncos offense compared to say the Colts? Or is there much of a difference?

- Lance Ball: Well the Colts offense is primarily based on letting Mr. Manning have his way. Their percentage of passing the ball is way higher than running the ball. Here in Denver we take pride in our running game and [want] to establish that line first. We are more of a balanced team on offense. I’m just excited to see how things unfold down the line into training camp.

• IH: Not that you’re criticizing anyone by any means, but if you were the head coach of the Broncos given the players you have at the moment, would you orientate your offense more towards passing or running?

- LB: I wouldn’t change anything. Some games we may pass more than run or vise-versa, it’s our job to execute and make the plays. I believe we have enough talent on the team to do both well.

• IH: You’ve never been on a ‘Big City’ team per se, but based on the players that you know that have been on a team in bigger city; what’s the difference between Denver and those cities as far as how they treat football and their players?

- LB: Of course the bigger the market the bigger the stage. Denver takes pride in all of its sports and expects winning ways, but any NFL football team in small or big city is always watched.

• IH: As competition mounts between you and the other players at your position in camp; what’s something that someone told you as a rookie that stuck with you?

- LB: By coming into the league as a free agent, I was always told to take advantage of [any] opportunity and to always make things happen when you get into the game. Every preseason and regular season game is watched by other teams. Its like an audition; so ball out!!

• IH: Did you feel as if there was a conscientious effort in Denver to switch from the “Zone blocking scheme,” to this now so-called “Power blocking scheme”? What changes did it bring on as a running back?

- LB: We haven’t switched at all we actually do both. Should see a much improved ground game by us this year. I’m pumped.

• IH: What’s your favorite football memory?

- LB: Wow, there are so many great memories that I have. My first college game ever, Maryland played Navy and we ended up being down late in 4th quarter. We had to go for it on 4th down to keep our chance of winning [alive]. To make a long story short, I caught a pass and made like four guys miss to get the first down. It was sick. The next play we scored and won the game.

• IH: Hardest hit you’ve taken in football and who was it?

- LB: I usually don’t get hit hard like that, but as far as I can remember in college I took a nice shot from Buster Davis. I [definitely] felt some pain.

• IH: Proudest memory as a football player?

- LB: Becoming a Denver Bronco !!

Ball finds himself in a very thin running back depth chart in the second week of training camp, with a definite chance to feature his skills this weekend. Currently the Broncos have three running backs on their roster that are capable of playing Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals. The other two being Toney Baker and Bruce Hall, newcomer Justin Fargas could possibly see very limited possessions as well.

The Broncos have a total of seven running backs on their roster and may carry four into the regular season and one or two on their practice squad.

  • Triston27

    I understand where you're trying to go with the 'Big City' thing, but when it comes to fanbase, loyalty, scrutiny, and local coverage, it doesn't get much bigger than Denver does with the Broncos.

    Just because you play for Chicago or one of the New York/Jersey teams, doesn't mean you have some kind of greater expectation or are under a larger microscope than any other player in a football crazy city.

    The 'Big City' thing may have come into play back when Broadway Joe was leading a NY team to a Super Bowl and newzies were out hollering about it the next morning, but it went out the window when the internet and mass media took over. Nowadays anyone can analyze and criticize from any distance, no matter the population. And with a fanbase as loyal as Denver's, they do.

  • TheTroglodyte

    Great article Ian, thank you.

  • http://nation.theorangepage.com/blog Ian Henson

    I think there are things New York athletes have to deal with more so than say a team from Green Bay or even Denver. You look at Cincinnati, that's a larger city by NFL standards and those players can barely make a turn without a turn signal before they end up on the news or in jail.

    In New York we have the New York Post and paparazzi, same goes for Los Angeles and to a lesser extent Miami. As well as much more popular television and raido. A team that's in a city of 8 million versus a team with a local population of 400,000 is in my opinion under a lower risk of being moved, but a higher risk of being scrutinized.

    A player like Champ Bailey can probably go out to dinner with little to no problems, what do you think would happen if Eli Manning goes out to dinner here or Derek Jeter. They end up on the news, in Page Six and talked about all throughout the day on talk radio and if they're losing, forget about it.

  • Triston27

    I think the Cincy thing has more to do with their players' previous history than it does with being in a larger market.

    Sure, Jets and Giants end up in the New York Post, or on Page Six, or talked about on radio. But the only people who read or listen to that stuff are New Yorkers. Just like the only people who read the Denver Post or listen to Denver radio are people from/in Denver. New York may have 16x the population of Denver, but I guarantee there isn't 16x the demands, expectations, or scrutiny on their teams.

    While true, Champ Bailey can pretty much roam town as he pleases, John Elway couldn't and Tebow won't be able to either. It's not the size of the city that demands the pointless headlines, it's the public appeal of the player.

  • http://nation.theorangepage.com/blog Ian Henson

    Thanks my friend =)

  • Triston27

    I think the Cincy thing has more to do with their players' previous history than it does with being in a larger market.

    Sure, Jets and Giants end up in the New York Post, or on Page Six, or talked about on radio. But the only people who read or listen to that stuff are New Yorkers. Just like the only people who read the Denver Post or listen to Denver radio are people from/in Denver. New York may have 16x the population of Denver, but I guarantee there isn't 16x the demands, expectations, or scrutiny on their teams.

    While true, Champ Bailey can pretty much roam town as he pleases, John Elway couldn't and Tebow won't be able to either. It's not the size of the city that demands the pointless headlines, it's the public appeal of the player.

  • http://nation.theorangepage.com/blog Ian Henson

    Thanks my friend =)