He’s been signed.
He’s been cut.
He’s been signed and cut again. And again. And again.
Asantay Brown is back with the Eagles for the fifth time in 15 months, and while we spend most of our time talking about big-money free agents, high draft picks and players with long-term contracts, the NFL is full of guys like Brown.
Guys who work their butt off just for a chance. And when that chance fizzles out, they work their butt off for another one.
The Eagles signed Brown on Sunday, one day after they lost linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill indefinitely with a knee injury.
He began the weekend on his couch in Muskegon, Michigan, and by Monday morning he was out on the practice field at the NovaCare Complex.
This is what life’s like for those on the NFL fringe, the guys who don’t have guaranteed contracts and are fighting for their career every day.
It’s like a roller-coaster,” Brown said after practice Monday. “It’s tough. You just don’t know what’s going to happen, but you always have to stay prepared and be ready. You can’t let yourself fall behind or fall short or anything, because you never know. You could get called in, you could get let go, brought back, it doesn’t matter. And don’t let the circumstances affect your behavior, so you have to find a way to get through it, fight through it, push through it and continue to move forward and just be thankful and grateful for another opportunity. That’s how you’ve got to look at it. You can’t look at it like, ‘I got released, I don’t know what to do.’ Moreso as, ‘Hey, I got to work even harder, I’ve got to grind even harder. Maybe I didn’t do something before that I can do a lot better now.’
Brown played college football at Western Michigan, where he started out as a wide receiver and finished as a three-time all-conference linebacker on a team that went to the Cotton Bowl, losing to Corey Clement’s Wisconsin Badgers.
He went undrafted before signing with the Eagles soon after the draft, and he spent a good portion of last year on the practice squad.
Here’s a look at his career transactions:
May 11, 2018 - Signed by Eagles as undrafted rookie
Sept. 1, 2018 - Released by Eagles
Sept. 2, 2018 - Signed to Eagles practice squad
Sept. 4, 2018 - Released from Eagles practice squad
Sept. 19, 2018 - Signed to Eagles practice squad
Jan. 14, 2019 - Signed by Eagles to reserve/futures contract
May 1, 2019 - Released by Eagles
Aug. 4, 2019 - Signed by Eagles
While his teammates from 2018 were going through OTAs and starting training camp, Brown was back home in Michigan.
Working out and waiting for the phone to ring.
It’s tough, you know?” he said. “Because I was here last year so I kind of know everybody and not being able to go to camp with the guys — or not going to camp at all — it’s tough. It’s like, ‘Man, I wish I would have done this a little bit better, I wish I would have done that a little bit better,’ but you can’t think like that. You’ve got to stay positive. ‘I’m going to keep working out, I’m going to stay in shape, I’m going to get a call, I’m going to get a call,’ and just wait for the opportunity to come, and when it comes just take full advantage of it.
There are a lot of paths to the NFL and a spot on the 53-man roster and the big money that comes with it.
Brown is trying to take an improbable path, but the fact that the Eagles keep bringing him back is encouraging.
The fact that they keep getting rid of him? He just tries to stay positive.
Which isn’t always easy when you keep getting that call to turn in your playbook.
“Every opportunity that you get you have to take full advantage of,” he said. “You can’t let yourself die down from it, you can’t be negative about it, you just have to stay positive, continue to grind, continue to be coachable and learn from your mistakes and minimize them so you have the best opportunity you can have.”
The Eagles have been decimated at linebacker this summer, with Paul Worrilow sidelined indefinitely with lingering knee issues, Nigel Bradham still not practicing after offseason foot surgery and now Grugier-Hill out into the regular season.
“I’m just thankful to be here and blessed with another opportunity,” Brown said.
So keep an eye on No. 50 in the preseason games. If there’s a linebacker out there playing like his career depends on it, you’ll understand why.
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