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Practice Squad Provides Critical Role In Game Prep

Posted Jan 18, 2018

The life of a player on the practice squad isn’t glamorous by any stretch. It’s oftentimes unpredictable, yet sometimes rewarding.

Safety Harold Jones-Quartey signed as a rookie free agent with the Cardinals back in 2015. He was released after the preseason only to be claimed by the Bears a day later. In two seasons with Chicago, Jones-Quartey became a solid contributor playing in 29 games (16 starts) at safety.

It was back to the drawing board after being waived before the start of the 2017 regular season.

The third-year journeyman spent a week with the Jets' practice squad before joining the Eagles in November. He was released, then signed again to the scout team in January. Now, he finds himself playing a significant role in prepping the 53-man roster for the most important game the Eagles have played in almost a decade.

“Really just try and do your best to help the team win. At this point, it’s all about winning and you just have to do your best,” Jones-Quartey said. “It’s phenomenal work for me personally because I get to go against some of the best like Zach Ertz, Pro Bowler, every day. Brent Celek, Alshon (Jeffery), guys like that. You get to work on your craft while you’re giving them a look for the other team.”

During these crucial practices, Jones-Quartey emulates Vikings safety Harrison Smith, a first-team All-Pro this season. He’s studied Smith’s movements and tendencies on film trying to make the transition as seamless as possible for the offense.

Joining Jones-Quartey on the scout team is rookie safety Tre Sullivan whose responsibilities this week involve imitating Smith and safety Andrew Sendejo.

“I want to give the guys that are playing on Sundays and Saturdays the best look they can get,” said Sullivan, who played in all four preseason games for the Eagles this year. “So it goes into watching film of the look team and things like that. Trying to imitate the things that they do on the field.”

After missing out on making the final roster, Sullivan signed with the practice squad in early November and stated that the biggest challenge is executing plays identically to the way the opponent does.

“You don’t want to mess up the look that the offense is getting or special teams so that they go out on Sundays and it’s not the same thing they saw in practice. That’s the toughest thing, just trying to be consistent and do everything correct.”

Josh Andrews spent his rookie season on the Eagles' practice squad before playing a combined 16 games during the 2015-16 seasons. In total, the 6-2, 311-pound center enters his fourth season with Philadelphia and noticed the intensity on the practice field shifted to another level.

“It definitely got cranked up as soon as the playoffs started because it’s a one-game basis. You don’t know if you’re going to get that next game so if you give it your all that’s the key,” Andrews said.

“It starts when we’re warming up. Everyone’s dancing, jumping around,” Sullivan said. “Then when we hit individuals (where each position group warmup drills), you feel like we’re in a game the way that we’re running around. We’re wearing pads, everything’s picked up. You can tell how important everything means for everyone and the intensity is just outstanding.”

Friday’s practice at Lincoln Financial Field marks the players’ final full workout before Saturday’s walkthrough. It's another opportunity for the practice squad to sharpen the team.

“I’ve seen these guys grow and get better and better as the years have gone. This is the best team I’ve been on since I’ve been here and it’s been fun to watch,” Andrews said.

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