Dallas Reynolds entered training camp knowing it was now or never for his NFL career.
For three seasons, Reynolds didn’t see game action with the Philadelphia Eagles. The center spent almost all of that time on Philadelphia’s practice squad after repeatedly passing through waivers.
Having used all of his practice squad eligibility under league rules, Reynolds faced three options coming out of the preseason. He was going to make the 53-man roster, get cut and claimed by another team, or be forced to accept the fact that maybe he would need to find another line of work.
“You kind of have it in the back of your mind that if this doesn’t work out you’re going to have to do this or that,” Reynolds told FOXSports.com in a Thursday telephone interview. “But once training camp hit and you start practicing, you put all that stuff out of your mind. You just go try to practice and play hard.”
Reynolds has done just that since getting his first crack at NFL action.
He was thrust onto the field for the first time during the regular season when Jason Kelce tore knee ligaments in a Week 2 win over Baltimore. With Kelce now on injured reserve, Reynolds has kept the starting spot heading into Sunday’s game at Pittsburgh (1 p.m. ET, FOX).
“I’m not going to lie — there was a lot of emotion going through this,” Reynolds said. “I wasn’t happy with the situation with Kelce going down the way he did. But I was excited about the opportunity to get in.”
Reynolds once wondered whether that opportunity would ever come.
Undrafted out of Brigham Young, Reynolds signed with Philadelphia as a college free agent in 2009 but was cut at the end of the preseason. He re-signed a month later, beginning an odyssey that took a personal toll on him and his family.
At one point as a rookie, Reynolds spent months living with his wife Suzanne at a local hotel because he didn’t know if the Turk would come calling again.
“My wife has been a huge trooper through all this,” Reynolds said. “She’s always been there for me and never complained or argued about anything. It makes it a lot easier on my end to do my job when you’ve got a wife who’s so supportive.”
Eagles coach Andy Reid said the biggest improvement that the 6-foot-4, 320-pound Reynolds has made came in the weight room. Reynolds admits that was an issue from the time he entered the NFL.
“It was hard in college because I had injuries during the season that would require offseason surgery,” said Reynolds, who still managed to start 51 games at BYU. “It was really only after my senior year that I was injury-free and had a full offseason to improve.”
With the injuries that have peppered Philadelphia’s offensive line, the Eagles need Reynolds to stay healthy. He must be especially sharp with the line calls Sunday against a zone-blitz defense that will probably be adding more bells and whistles with the expected return of free safety Troy Polamalu and outside linebacker James Harrison from injury.
“I think I still have a lot of room to improve,” said Reynolds, 28. “You can practice doing this and that, but there’s something to be about gaining experience on the field.”
After three long years, that’s a statement Reynolds can finally make.