San Francisco 49ers offensive lineman Daniel Brunskill spent the past two seasons on the practice squad of the Atlanta Falcons.
Brunskill, 25, knows what that's like. It is generally a thankless job. You’re in the NFL, but not really. That’s why Brunskill is officially known as a first-year player, even though he has been in an NFL building non-stop since May of 2017, when he signed with the Falcons as an undrafted rookie.
Players on the practice squad earn $8,000 for every week in that role during the regular season. The rookie minimum salary for players on the 53-man roster is $29,000 a week.
“Those guys work just as hard,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “They do just as much. Sometimes they have to do more, except on Sunday. They don’t make nearly the amount of money, but they are expected to do all the same stuff.”
Brunskill made his first NFL start on Sunday, lining up every snap for the 49ers at right tackle in place of Mike McGlinchey, who is expected to miss four to six games after undergoing arthroscopic surgery to repair cartilage in his knee.
Brunskill’s first start was a success. According to Pro Football Focus, he allowed just one quarterback hurry in his 36 snaps as a pass blocker.
In the tunnel outside the 49ers’ locker room at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Brunskill called the experience “pretty surreal.”
Then, he remembered from whence he came and devoted much of his time in the spotlight to bring attention to those on the 49ers’ 10-player practice squad, especially the guy who wore No. 99 and practiced as if he were Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald.
“I want to give a shout-out to all the P-squad guys because they stepped up big this week,” Brunskill said. “Kevin Givens and Jeremiah Valoaga really stepped up on the scout team defense to give us that D-line look.'
“Givens was No. 99. So he was getting after us and he did a great job of it. That was pretty awesome just to get us ready for that type of look. He did a tremendous job, no doubt.”
In addition to Givens and Valoaga, the two defensive linemen on the 49ers’ practice squad, Brunskill went on to name each of the other members of the unit: linebackers Elijah Lee and Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles, cornerback Teez Tabor, wide receiver Malik Henry, tight end Daniel Helm, offensive linemen Ross Reynolds, Will Holden and Jaryd Jones-Smith.
“This team is amazing and one of the best things about it is it’s a family,” Brunskill said. “Every guy is supportive. Every guy is there for you. Every guy has your back.”
Brunskill attended San Diego State as a walk-on tight end. He finally earned a scholarship after moving to offensive tackle before his redshirt junior season. On Sunday, he found himself lining up on occasion across from Donald, a five-time Pro Bowl selection and four-time first-team All-Pro.
“It was pretty awesome to say I’d be able to go against one of the guys who’s going to be coveted as one of the best players to ever play this game,” Brunskill said. “That’s pretty awesome to say that I blocked that guy before and to go against him. And he is a tremendous player, no doubt.”
Donald registered two sacks against the 49ers, but neither came during his head-to-head matchups against Brunskill.