GREEN BAY, Wis. — It’s not often that an undrafted rookie performs so well during training camp and preseason that the final roster cutdown is of little worry. But that was the case with Packers outside linebacker Dezman Moses.
Before leaving Lambeau Field following Green Bay’s final preseason game, with roster cuts due less than 24 hours later, Moses already knew he was safe.
“I had a few hints the day before that I could sleep,” Moses said. “That helped me a little bit. But you never know until someone tells you it’s official. It’s a little relief, and then it’s back to work.”
Moses gave the Packers’ coaching staff and front office no reason to even second-guess his spot on the roster. He dominated during minicamp, but judgment on his skills had to be withheld somewhat considering that those practice sessions involved no pads and no hitting.
But as his success carried over, it was obvious that general manager Ted Thompson had found a steal after the draft by signing Moses.
“It’s definitely a good accomplishment for me, something I’ve worked at since I was a young kid,” Moses said of making the team. “It’s something I’ve always aspired to do. I’ve accomplished that now. Now it’s onto new goals, set a new bar to reach.”
When the Packers released their first unofficial depth chart prior to the first preseason game, Moses was listed last among players at his position. Even at that early stage, Moses was clearly well beyond that ranking.
By the final preseason game, Moses had become the next man up when starting outside linebackers Clay Matthews and Nick Perry exited. Most specifically, Moses had become Matthews’ top backup.
Being passed on by all 32 NFL teams multiple times while 253 other players were drafted shows that Moses has quickly proven many doubters wrong just by making Green Bay’s roster. But Moses isn’t satisfied.
“I want to be known as a very good player in this league and I haven’t done that yet,” Moses said. “I still have a chip on my shoulder. I’m still in the same situation, trying to work my way up the ladder. I’m out to prove to everyone that watches me the type of player I am, how hard I go and how hard I work.
“If you’re happy with just being on the team, then that’s not good enough.”
Moses, whose college career began at Iowa before legal problems brought him to Tulane, didn’t record any sacks in preseason but was frequently in the face of Aaron Rodgers during practices. Moses could tell that those consistent quarterback pressures were helping him get recognized by the Packers’ coaching staff early on.
“For me, that’s always my object when I’m out there, to make plays, to have people take notice of my game by playing hard and playing physical, because that shows up on film,” Moses said. “You see a guy get to the pass rusher, something has to catch your attention. So that was my goal from Day 1, to be physical, be around the ball and try to get to the passer and disrupt some things.”
Moses was a rare example of a player who took only a couple months to show just how extremely undervalued he was in the draft.
A much more common case with undrafted rookies on the day of final roster cutdowns is what offensive lineman Don Barclay went through.
Barclay, who started three years at left tackle at West Virginia, was one of seven undrafted rookie offensive linemen brought into Green Bay for training camp.
He wasn’t given any hints a day beforehand that he had made the team. Given the large amount of young, unproven offensive linemen competing for a spot, Barclay had to sit around all day hoping for good news.
In fact, for a player in Barclay’s position, no news is usually good news.
“I basically told everyone close to me to not call me, so there weren’t mixed emotions,” Barclay said. “It was real exciting when I didn’t get the call. You’re waiting around until the deadline, then (offensive line) Coach (James) Campen actually did call me up and congratulated me, so that’s how I found out.”
That was when Barclay could finally relax and tell his family and friends that he had made it onto the Packers’ 53-man active roster.
“It was great,” he said. “It’s what I’ve been waiting for my whole life. It’s really rewarding. I’m thankful for the opportunity and the trust they have in me. I’m ready to work even harder now.”
All of those hours waiting weren’t pleasant for Barclay, not knowing whether he had done enough to impress Green Bay’s coaching staff or would have to hope his agent could find him a new team to try out for.
“It was nerve-wracking,” Barclay said. “Everyone’s fighting for the same thing at the end of the day. I waited around all day. Just to make sure, I didn’t want to jinx anything. The next day, I definitely felt more relief and more excitement.”
Barclay played every spot except for center along the offensive line during training camp, despite having the vast majority of his experience in college at tackle.
“You have to be versatile, really, at this level,” Barclay said. “I think that’s what helped me out a lot. I knew it’d come down to something like that. The whole camp, I thought I improved from Day 1. That was my goal, to get the trust from Coach Campen to have them count on me to go out there and doing different positions and it ended up working out.”
The Packers kept a total of four undrafted rookies on their active roster this season, after keeping three in 2011. In addition to Moses and Barclay, Green Bay held onto wide receiver Jarrett Boykin and safety Sean Richardson.