One is a Super Bowl hero, another was undrafted and once-cut, the third was a high draft choice. Desperation comes in many forms.
Jarrett Bush, Josh Gordy (pictured) and Pat Lee all have one thing in common: an instinct for survival in the NFL.
Bush's career speaks best for the perseverance and resilience required of reserve players that continually find themselves fighting for a roster spot. Bush was an undrafted free agent from Utah State who was cut by Carolina and signed by the Packers. Five years later, he's coming off a game-changing interception in the Super Bowl and he's got the inside track on a sixth season of survival in the NFL.
"Competing against guys that were drafted; guys they like. I was very nervous," Bush recalled of his rookie season. "It's a life-long dream. People don't last in this business forever."
Gordy has followed a route to the Packers similar to Bush's. Gordy was signed as an undrafted free agent out of Central Michigan by the Jaguars last year, but was cut by the Jaguars late in the preseason and was signed to the Packers practice squad on Sept. 15. On Dec. 1, Gordy was signed to the Packers active roster and played on special teams right through the team's Super Bowl win.
"The Packers gave me an opportunity to come in and play football. From there, you work your way up," Gordy said.
In this training camp, Gordy has worked his way into strong contention for a roster spot as a young cornerback with upside.
"We wanna get a good look at Gordy tomorrow night because he showed up, obviously, in the first game," Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers said. "Gordy played well. He had the interception, which he played well. I thought he covered well."
Bush, Gordy and Lee will all see significant playing time on Friday in the Packers' preseason home opener against the Arizona Cardinals. Of the three players, Bush is clearly in the lead. He's a cornerback that can play safety, and vice versa, and the combination increases his value. Gordy, however, leaped to the forefront with an interception and a sack in the Packers' loss to the Browns last Saturday.
"That's pretty big. They look for young guys to make splash plays. I thought I got it done, but the hard thing is repeating it. Gotta stay hungry," Gordy said.
Lee has been with the Packers since being drafted in the second round in 2008. Expectations were obviously high for the Auburn cornerback, but General Manager Ted Thompson found another couple of steals in Tramon Williams, another waiver-wire addition, and Sam Shields in undrafted free agency, and Lee finds himself in an uphill battle.
"Whoever makes plays; to make a lot of plays and put it out there that the coaches can trust me," he said of his goal in these preseason games.
"Pat can play inside or outside and we'll see him at both positions tomorrow night," Capers said of his plans for Lee's playing time against the Cardinals.
For star players such as Aaron Rodgers and Clay Matthews, preseason games are something to be endured. For Bush, Gordy and Lee, and all of the players in battles to win a job or a roster spot, a preseason game is something to be embraced. It can be a difference-maker in their career. It can launch it or crash it.
"There are a lot of good players. Who's ready to take advantage of the opportunity? When I was activated, I was put on special teams. I took that role seriously," Gordy said.
"My satisfaction isn't complete. I've achieved a lot but I'm still not done. I have other goals I want to meet," Bush said.