Houston Bates got a taste of regular season action in the season opener. Now he's using his time on the practice squad to perfect his craft.
Washington Redskins linebacker Houston Bates doesn't take his placement of a sign that his career has stalled out.
That's hardly the case. In fact, Bates couldn't be happier to be on an NFL roster, even in this capacity.
If you knew his journey, you'd understand why.
Starting his college career at the University of Illinois, Bates was a redshirted his first season in 2010.
Then, he would go on to play in three seasons with a 2013 season that ended in Honorable Mention All-Big Ten Honors.
He would then transfer to Louisiana Tech before going undrafted this past May. Called on to join the Texans' rookie minicamp, Bates eventually found his way to Washington.
Now it's home for him.
"I think it's a huge accomplishment," Bates said of being on the practice squad. "I want to help this team out any way I can and I got to give a huge appreciation to the Redskins for giving me a chance. I went to the Texans first, and they didn't want me, came here, and they gave me a shot. So I'm going to do everything I can just keep working, to get back on active."
Bates was the classic example of a player who took advantage of every single preseason rep he got. In the opener against the Cleveland Browns he recorded back-to-back sacks before tallying a total of three.
He wasn't part of the team's 53-man roster to start the season, but after an injury to Jackson Jeffcoat forced him to the sidelines for rehab, Bates was called up to the active roster for the season opener against the Miami Dolphins.
It showed him right away that if you give it your all with each opportunity, a call up can happen at any moment.
"It happened on a Saturday morning, when I got called up," Bates said. "I didn't realize it until, we have lifts Saturday morning, and I was eating breakfast, and my coach came down and said, 'Look, I told you it happens fast, you're not lifting today, you're coming with the team.' Kind of blown away, just because I was not expecting that at all."
'Wednesdays are my gameday'
Outside of an occasional practice photo or roster move, practice squad guys are hardly heard from during the season.
On Wednesdays, though, the traditional start of weekly preparations for the upcoming opponent, they can make some noise.
And with the team wanting the active roster to be at their sharpest, they need the practice squad players to bring their all.
"I go all out and give 100 percent, just like I'm playing in a game," Bates said. "It helps these guys out to give them the great looks and to really see what it's going to look like in the game. These are my game days and then Thursday and Friday are more of like glorified walkthrough, I guess you'd say. But still go full speed and work on your technique and craft. But Wednesdays are definitely full-go for me."
And while he may not be seen on the sidelines on gamedays or board the team flight to away games, Bates isn't treated any differently.
"We don't get treated any different really, you just kind of have to service the guys, and you still work on your craft," Bates said. "And that's what a lot of people don't understand. Basically, you're just a guy getting a redshirt year. You get coached up and you work on your craft, work on your technique and get the other guys better as well as yourself. We work out, get stronger, get bigger, get faster and then go and work on our technique at practice."