For many players on the bubble, the final preseason game is a bittersweet event.
During the game, players on the fringe of a roster spot are given four quarters to show what they can do. But after the game, their futures are uncertain.
For the Eagles, this moment is personified by its two rookie running backs.
Despite being a seventh-round pick and an undrafted rookie free agent, respectively, Bryce Brown and Chris Polk come with impressive pedigrees. And with All-Pro LeSean McCoy and second-year pro Dion Lewis ahead of them on the depth chart, these two may very well be fighting for only one roster spot.
Brown was one of the most talked about players during Training Camp, and he did not disappoint when the games started. Brown finished the preseason with 120 yards rushing and a touchdown on 28 carries. But perhaps most importantly, Brown felt like he made consistent progress.
"I made a lot of improvement (from) when I first got here, coming in to rookie camp and OTAs and getting some games under my belt," Brown said. "It's easier to get in a groove when you're out there playing more, so it was fun just to get that opportunity and just to be out there a lot having fun."
The preseason had been a long wait for Brown, who played only one college game in 2011. Getting back on the field was a welcome feeling.
"If I can think back and remember my first game, I was really, really nervous," he said. "I hadn't played in a long time. It's been awhile since I've had the pads on and in a live game setting. But after that, I kind of calmed down and realized that it's still football. The coaches have done a good job of preparing us and putting us in a position to be successful. And just do the things that you're taught in practice and everything else will be OK."
Despite being a highly touted college running back, health concerns prevented Polk from being drafted. However, Polk showcased his signature bruising running style, finishing the preseason with 27 carries for 112 yards and a touchdown. Polk said he was pleased with the way he approached the preseason and is ready for the next step – whatever that may be.
"I'm happy with my performance," Polk said. "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, and it's a learning experience. I'm going to continue to grow as a player and be a student of the game … I'm just trying to get better, day in and day out. If you're not getting better, you're getting worse."
Despite solid performances and all their upside, the harsh truth remains – both backs may not make the roster. That means a sleepless Thursday night for both.
"I would lie if I said I wasn't (thinking about the roster cutdown), but I try to tell myself that I have no control over that," Brown said. "Everything I've done so far, I feel like I've done my best. I've tried, I've given it all. And I just hope, at the end of the day, when it's all said and done, that I'm a part of this organization."
"I don't think I'm going to be able to sleep tonight," Polk said. "You never know when you'll get that phone call. Hopefully I did enough to contribute and hopefully stay here. If I get the opportunity and they let me go, I'm happy with it. I was around a great bunch of guys, great coaching staff, great organization. I'm just really blessed to be in the situation I'm in now."
Regardless of what happens, playing in the NFL is the realization of a dream a lifetime in the making.
"It's a special coaching staff, a special group of guys," Brown said. "I think I made somewhat of an impact and I just hope they got to see me for who I am as a person and as a player."
"(Thursday is) a great day regardless," Polk said. "Even if I don't stay I was able to live out my dream, playing in NFL games and score. Even though it was a preseason, I was still able to get into the end zone."
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