GLENDALE, Ariz. — Daryn Colledge is not the type of player who should really be fighting to make an NFL roster.
Signed by the Arizona Cardinals as a free agent before the 2011 season, he has been a mainstay on the team’s offensive line, generally providing solid play for a team that has consistently struggled to find adequacy up front.
However, as the 31-year-old prepares for his third season in the desert, he does so with no guarantee that he’ll be on the roster when the season opens on September 8.
Out for the last couple weeks due to a nerve issue in his right leg, he is just now getting back on the field and understands he has to prove to the new coaching staff that he belongs.
“I have about three plays on tape right now, so I’ve got a lot to show,” Colledge said Monday. “I’ve got to go out there just like anyone else and earn a spot on this team.”
That spot is arguably more tenuous than anyone could have previously expected, as increased depth has led to increased competition up front.
Not being on the field has certainly put Colledge at a disadvantage, especially since free agent Paul Fanaika, who started in his place last Friday in Green Bay, has been taking the reps and receiving praise from the coaching staff.
“It’s always good to be back practicing, especially when somebody at your position is doing well,” head coach Bruce Arians said. “It behooves you to be back on the field.”
And therein lies the rub for Colledge.
“You’re in a predicament,” he said. “The trainers and doctors want you to wait as long as possible, and you as a player want to get out there as soon as possible.”
Colledge said he’s looking to find “a happy medium,” as he understands every rep he misses during camp is another lost chance to build chemistry with his teammates. Furthermore, he’ll only have so many chances to impress the new staff.
“I don’t think anybody on this team feels particularly safe about their job,” he said. “Everybody out there feels like they can compete.
“We don’t have anybody on that offensive line that’s a five-time Pro Bowler and we’ve got a brand new system, so it’s kind of a situation where you don’t feel like the coaches owe you anything. You feel like you’ve got to go out every week and prove yourself and prove that you’re the guy that deserves to be up there. This regime has proven that they don’t mind bringing somebody else in and getting the job done if you don’t plan on doing it.”
As of now, Colledge’s plan is to practice this week and play in Saturday’s preseason matchup with the Dallas Cowboys. He expects to be a little rusty, but is hopeful he’ll get back into the swing of things rather quickly.
“This will probably be one of the toughest offensive lines I’ve had to make in my eight years in the NFL,” he added. “So the competition out there is stiff and I promise, the seven guys we dress each week are going to be the best seven guys out there.”
At this point, Colledge’s goal is to be able to prove he is one of them.