Practice-squad year a key piece of Randy Ramsey's journey to Packers' roster

Malik Taylor, Yosh Nijman among other undrafted prospects to land on the 53

LB Randy Ramsey

GREEN BAY – It turns out, cut-down day wasn't all that nerve-racking for Randy Ramsey.

The Packers' young outside linebacker was no shoo-in to make the 53-man roster, certainly not after missing the last week-plus of training camp due to an injury.

But the practice-squad holdover from a year ago was confident he'd shown the Packers what he could do, and that his chances to stick were pretty good.

"For some reason, I was calm," Ramsey said on his 25th birthday Monday, two days after making his first 53-man roster. "I wasn't really concerned. I'm a high believer in if you put in the work, everything else will fall in place.

"I wasn't really worried about where I was going to end up or what was going to happen because I firmly believed that I put in the work."

Most of that work was with rushing the passer, an area Ramsey admitted he was "raw" coming out of Arkansas a year ago as an undrafted free agent. He had tallied 7 ½ sacks for the Razorbacks over four seasons playing linebacker and defensive end after converting from cornerback as a high-schooler.

He didn't make the team a year ago, but the Packers liked the 6-3, 238-pounder's athleticism and signed him to their practice squad after final cuts. He spent his entire rookie season there.

The year taught him "how to be a pro," and it proved to be an invaluable apprenticeship learning behind veterans Za'Darius Smith and Preston Smith and Kyler Fackrell. Even though he didn't get an on-field offseason nor a full training camp of practices in Year 2, Ramsey knows he's much more NFL-ready now than at any point in 2019.

"I really didn't know anything about pass rush. I was just coming off the ball hard and fast. (Position) coach (Mike) Smith, he basically has the formula. It's like the 'Krabby Patty' formula," Ramsey said, a reference to the secret recipe of the hamburger sold in the fictional restaurant on the TV show "Sponge Bob Square Pants."

"Watching Z and Preston and Kyler just do it like it was second nature, that year gave me a lot of time to process all these moves and just combine it into my own thing."

At this point, Ramsey and rookie seventh-round draft pick Jonathan Garvin are the next two up at outside linebacker for the Packers behind the top three of the Smiths and 2019 first-round pick Rashan Gary.

Ramsey was not cleared for practice Monday (though he was on the field working out off to the side), so his availability for Week 1 at Minnesota is in question. The first official injury report of the week comes out Wednesday.

If he has to wait a while to get his first real NFL action, he's willing to be patient. Back in 2015, his second year at Arkansas, he was academically ineligible and missed the entire season before earning reinstatement and playing three more seasons there.

Packers LB Randy Ramsey celebrates his birthday on September 7. Check out photos of him from his time with the Packers.

"That was one of the lowest points of my life," Ramsey said of his forced year away from the game. "I honestly didn't know if I was going to play football again. To be here and to make the 53, it's a surreal moment."

And not just for Ramsey, who's one of four undrafted players to make his first 53 out of training camp. Another one on defense is cornerback Kabion Ento, who sustained a significant injury midway through camp and could be headed to injured reserve temporarily while he recovers.

The two on offense are receiver Malik Taylor and offensive tackle Yosh Nijman. Taylor has made the climb from Division II Ferris State to the NFL, while Nijman is getting another crack to help the Packers' O-line depth after a promotion from the practice squad to the active roster late last season was short-lived due to an elbow injury.

Nijman's path began as a highly touted defensive lineman in the junior-college ranks who initially was hesitant to switch to the offensive line at Virginia Tech.

"I think the second week into spring ball, I sat down with Coach (Frank) Beamer and my offensive line coach, and they were like, 'Hey, we think you would do a phenomenal job playing offensive line,'" Nijman said.

Turns out they were right, and Nijman went on to start 32 games for the Hokies, spending two seasons at left tackle and one on the right side.

The Packers kept the 6-7, 314-pounder on the roster despite his missing the vast majority of training camp recovering from last year's late-season injury. He did return to the field for the last few practices and said physically he feels good.

"After the injury, I just took it one day at a time," Nijman said. "Every day I want to improve on something. I'm excited to be back out there."

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