Friday, November 18, 2011
Updated: November 19, 4:17 PM ET
By Mike Reiss
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- For Ross Ventrone, who's been involved in 15 transactions with the New England Patriots since Aug. 10, there are a few key weekly checkpoints.
The first is Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET. If Ventrone is still on the roster or the practice squad at that point, he's guaranteed his paycheck that week regardless of what happens in ensuing days.
The second is Saturday at 4 p.m. ET. On days when the Patriots play on Sunday, that is the deadline for the team to make a roster move for that weekend's game.
Maybe someday in the near future, Ventrone won't have to worry about "Tuesday at 4" and "Saturday at 4", the weekly fluctuations of his paycheck between the practice squad and the 53-man roster, or the possibility of being signed one day and released the next. But he understands at this point that it comes with the territory. He's on the edge of the roster and sometimes there is a need for players at other positions.
Since Aug. 10, Ventrone has been signed to the active roster five times, released six times, and signed to the practice squad four times. Sometimes when he returns to the team, he finds himself in a different space in the locker room. It's been a lot of movement, but thankfully for the first-year safety from Villanova, he's never missed a paycheck.
"It is pretty unique," Ventrone said Friday in the Patriots' locker room, one day after he was re-signed to the team's practice squad. "Week to week, I just look at it as hopefully I'm going to play. I don't look at it any differently if I would be here the whole time."
Ventrone has been active for five games this season, his primary contributions coming on special teams (one tackle). He's played a total of three defensive snaps, all coming in an in-game emergency when the player ahead of him on the depth chart was injured.
Coach Bill Belichick lauded the way Ventrone has approached the unusual situation, noting that he might be close to leading the league in transactions.
"He's handled it great," Belichick said. "We called him up a couple times, sometimes we had a feeling that we were going to be doing that, but other times, it's really been kind of a last-minute thing. He's always been well-prepared, ready to go. We throw him in there when he kind of least expects it in practice, and he's prepared. He does a good job."
Given his on-again, off-again status, Ventrone has to keep in mind a few key checkpoints as they relate to his future.
Players who are active for at least three games get credit toward a retirement benefit and ensure that their minimum base salary will increase the following year. Players who are active for six games ensure an accrued season toward free agency, so that's the next step for the 25-year-old Ventrone.
As for how he takes the news each time a transaction is made, especially when he's released, Ventrone tries to keep his head up.
"I don't get discouraged," he said. I just keep working hard. I know things work out the way they do sometimes, the numbers system [needing players at] different positions, and I just hope they do bring me back. They have so far."
Every time Ventrone is released, it's possible for another team to claim him. He said he hasn't truly considered what it would be like if that happened.
Yes, he gets text messages from friends who rib him at times as one of the most hired-then-fired NFL employees, but he's conditioned to ignore them at this point.
"To me, I'm just glad I'm here, glad to be helping the team," he said. "It's unbelievable, just being on a team with these guys, coached by these coaches. Being part of an organization like this, that they want me around enough to keep bringing me back, is a great honor."
|Safety Ross Ventrone, who has been released and re-signed by the Patriots several times this season, says, "I don't get discouraged. I just keep working hard."|
Mike Reiss covers the Patriots for ESPNBoston.com.