Dezman Moses was one of the Green Bay Packers' best defenders at practice throughout training camp. He made some big plays in the games. He's a No. 1 on all four core special teams units.
Still, to the bitter end, Moses wasn't sure he'd make the 53-man roster.
"You never know," Moses, an undrafted rookie out of Tulane, said after Monday's practice. "This is my first time, so I don't know what's enough. That's why every day, my goal was to go out there and work hard and improve, just so I could eliminate any questions about whether or not I belong here. I guess I got that done. For me, it was never a comfort level, just because this is my first go-round so I didn't know what they expected or what they were thinking. So, it was eliminate that by working hard and improving."
Moses figured he was in the clear when the 8 p.m. deadline had passed and rested easy when nobody from the team called to tell him he had actually made it. Another undrafted rookie, Vanderbilt's Sean Richardson, was confident he'd make the team, though his night wasn't without some nervous moments.
"I knew I had been doing pretty well and coaches had been saying good things about me and how they loved my work ethic and the type of person that I am and what I bring to the game," Richardson said on Monday. "I was doing good on special teams, and a lot of players make it on special teams. I felt like I had a great chance to make the team, so I kind of slept well. I woke up around 4:30-ish and wasn't able to go back to sleep so I jumped in the iPad and started watching practice and our previous game. I felt good about my performance."
Richardson didn't get a phone call, either. He wound up going to the stadium, where director of pro personnel Eliot Wolf and a few others were joking near the training room. One member of the group walked up to Richardson and congratulated him on making the team.
"I looked at him like, ‘I just saw you all over there joking,'" Richardson said. "He was like, ‘No, I'm not joking. I'm serious.' So, it was just a sigh of relief."
Moses and Richardson had strong preseasons. Richardson, who beat out Anthony Levine for the fourth safety spot, tied Levine with a team-high 15 tackles in the preseason. Moses chipped in 12 tackles and finished second with three quarterback hits. He had a sack against Kansas City that was nullified by a phantom offside penalty. While Richardson probably will be be relegated to special teams — where at 6-foot-2 and 216 pounds with 4.52 speed in the 40, he figures to be a major weapon — Moses has carved out a role on the defense, even with Clay Matthews and first-round pick Nick Perry cemented in the starting lineup.
The same chip on the shoulder that powered Moses through training camp will drive him into the regular season. In two seasons at Tulane, he tallied 15.5 sacks, 24.5 tackles for losses and forced six fumbles. Yet, 31 teams passed him by in the draft.
"They made their decision," Moses said. "Those guys, they get paid to do what they do. For me, I still have a chip on my shoulder, that's for sure. Whatever team I go out there against, I'll know for sure that that was one of the teams that passed up on me. When I go out there, I want to show them what type of player I am. I know all of those guys had a chance and decided to go another route. You always want to prove people wrong and show them that you do belong and show them what type of player you are. When I go out there, I definitely have a lot to prove and a chip on my shoulder that will stay there."
Said Richardson: "It's a great accomplishment. It's been my dream to play in the NFL and I've always worked hard, and it's finally paying off. I've got to continue to work hard and continue to get better."
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.