Lack Of Offseason Practices Providing No Pathway For Players Like Duck Hodges, Tuzar Skipper

One of the unfortunate side effects about the fact that Spring on-field workouts are effectively cancelled is that it basically means there are no opportunities for tryout players. Not that there is a huge success rate for undrafted free agents who go unsigned only to be invited to rookie minicamps to compete for a spot on a 90-man roster, but you never know where a good player might come from.

Just last year, four players were signed to the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 90-man roster after showing up well during the team’s rookie minicamp. The most notable names among that group were quarterback Devlin Hodges and outside linebacker Tuzar Skipper, both of whom finished the season on the 53-man roster after unseating Brogan Roback and Keion Adams, respectively. Also making the squad as invitees were Greg Gilmore and Henry Mondeaux, the latter of whom spent all of last season on the practice squad.

The previous year, wide receiver Damoun Patterson and offensive lineman R.J. Prince both made the team as minicamp invitees. Prince would spend the year on the practice squad, while Patterson drew some attention in the preseason before he got injured.

There are other notable names of players who would make the practice squad or at least perform well in training camp, but to date, the most successful player to come in as an invitee for Pittsburgh is inside linebacker Terence Garvin, who was the lone tryout player to earn a spot that year.

He would go on to make the 53-man roster and become a crucial member of the special teams unit, but with Larry Foote having gotten hurt in the opener, that left rookie Vince Williams in a starting role. Over the course of the season, Garvin was given some snaps on defense here and there in passing situations.

He would ultimately spend three years in Pittsburgh, primarily acting as a special teams ace, and went on to play one year in Washington and another with the Seattle Seahawks, where he would start three games. He was with the 49ers for just one game in 2018.

As you may recall from our own coverage, Garvin did participate in the Alliance of American Football last season, where he emerged as one of the top linebackers in the league, and if memory serves, was even among the league leaders in interceptions. After getting no interest from NFL teams, he then participated in the XFL earlier this year.

Now 29 years old, the West Virginia product no doubt would still relish another shot in the NFL after last playing a down in 2018. To date, he has recorded 77 tackles with a sack and a half and a forced fumble over 302 defensive snaps, and 1363 special teams snaps.

That’s really not bad for a guy who couldn’t even get a contract out of school. With the offseason as it is, it’s unclear if there will be any opportunities for such players later on this year.

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