Chasing the dream, one more time

Friday, August 17, 2012, Vol. 36, No. 33

For Joey Haynos, a slim chance to keep playing professional football is better than no chance at all.

The tight end is one of a handful of late-comers to the Tennessee Titans, arriving as an injury replacement on Aug. 2, a few days after training camp had already started. The Titans picked up Haynos, a former University of Maryland tight end, after it was learned that undrafted rookie Brandon Barden would miss significant time with a hamstring injury.

Since Haynos wasn’t on the roster during the Titans’ off-season work, and is filling in for an undrafted, free agent rookie, his odds of surviving are fairly long.

But that doesn’t mean Haynos was hesitant to sign when the Titans came calling. Quite the contrary. Once the phone rang, Haynos decided catching passes – even for a few weeks – from Matt Hasselbeck or Jake Locker beat the real-world job he had taken back in Maryland.

“I had a job for a little bit, and then the Titans called. I was working for a general contractor, doing project management type stuff,” Haynos says. “I was sitting behind a desk and walking around a construction site. I missed running routes and exercising. I missed doing that for a living, and this is better. My agent was telling me teams were interested in me.”

And so Haynos packed his bags and headed to Nashville for his fourth training camp since 2008, when he first began to pursue the NFL dream as an undrafted rookie with the Green Bay Packers.

Former Maryland tight end Joey Haynos, who has played for the Packers and Dolphins, is one of many undrafted free agents willing to accept long odds and give up their day jobs for a chance at a roster spot with the Tennessee Titans. If not, they hope another team will take notice and have a need.

-- Ap Photo/Lynne Sladky

Haynos actually had things going in the right direction for a while, spending some of 2008 and all of 2009 with the Miami Dolphins. In ‘09, Haynos caught 19 passes, including two touchdowns, for Miami.

A foot injury derailed his career in Miami, and Haynos has been working to get back on an NFL roster ever since.

“I did pretty well down there. But I got hurt, and it’s been pretty tough coming back,” Haynos says. “But it’s only two years removed, so I’m not gonna give up on it now. I’m still young.”

That’s the attitude of many of the long shots who have come to camp as injury replacements, hoping somehow to buck the odds and catch the eye of the Titans or some other team with their work in camp and preseason.

It is the dream of playing in the NFL and, no matter how faint the chance, hope still flickers as long as some team is still willing to give a player like Haynos a chance.

Safety Tracy Wilson, an undrafted free agent who signed with the Jets in 2011, has even less time to make an impression on the Titans.

-- Ap Photo/Bill Kostroun

“It’s a little longer odds, but you don’t want to look at it like that,” says safety Tracy Wilson, who arrived even later than Haynos, joining the team last week. “But it’s part of the business. Some people have to go from team to team until they find their home.”

Wilson went to camp with the New York Jets, but was soon released. The Titans offered a life line. Like Haynos, any opportunity to keep playing football is a good opportunity in his mind.

Titans general manager Ruston Webster says as long as the late-comers can somehow learn the playbook, they can have a fighting chance for a roster spot.

“It can be tough for them. It’s just a matter of how they handle it,” Webster explains. “The biggest thing they have to do is get in that book and learn it quick. They’re behind already, and that’s the difficult part of it. Their skills will show up, though. As long as they’re in shape, and they’re staying on top of their studies, their skills should show up.”

Wilson agrees that learning the playbook is the key.

“Once you learn the playbook and get out there on the field, it’s really just about playing fast,” Wilson says. “You want to show up on film, so they’ll put you out there again. It’s a little hard to get your reps, but once you get your reps, it’s about making the most of your opportunity.”

And as long as opportunities present themselves, guys like Haynos and Wilson will gladly take them.

Terry McCormick covers the Titans for and is the AFC blogger for National Football Post.