Zarnell Fitch thought his professional football career was over before it started.
Fitch, a 6-foot-3, 320-pound defensive tackle, exhausted his college career at Texas Christian and went undrafted in 2006, so he agreed to become a graduate assistant for the Horned Frogs.
“When I was coming out of college, the whole process wasn’t going my way at first, so I started being a GA as my second career,” Fitch said. “I’ve always wanted to be in football. Then I got a call from the Jets.”
Thus began his journey as one of hundreds of college football players trying earn a job in the NFL. After joining New York’s practice squad, he spent a season in NFL Europa with the Frankfurt Galaxy.
Last season he was on Baltimore’s 53-man roster for two games and on the practice squad for 13 weeks. He was released in May, and Fitch went back to Fort Worth, Texas, and resumed his work at TCU. He was working out there last week when he received a call from the Washington Redskins, who were seeking bodies for a depleted defensive line.
“I didn’t get [as] much sleep last night as I wish I would have got,” Fitch said. “They didn’t tell me the tempo was going to be this quick, but it was a good learning experience.”
Fitch remains a tremendous long shot to make the team, but just being in an NFL camp is a welcome development for a young player trying to earn a job in this league. And should this not work out, there is a job in Fort Worth waiting for him.
“Those guys were looking forward to getting me back, but I told them I want to play football,” he said. “When the time and opportunity comes, I’ll go be a coach, but right now I’m a football player.”
Running back Eric Shelton was the only new injury to report Sunday. He had a stinger in his shoulder he suffered in Saturday’s intrasquad scrimmage. His ailment brought the number of players who sat out practice to 10, and that does not include defensive ends Phillip Daniels and Alex Buzbee, who were lost for the season, and the two injured players who were cut, defensive end J.T. Mapu and offensive guard Kerry Brown.
“It is difficult because the rotations get messed up,” coach Jim Zorn said. “The healthy players have to work harder, and you can’t evaluate the players that are injured.”
Starting defensive tackle Anthony Montgomery - who joined his teammates on the practice field but was limited to some light conditioning - said he expects to miss two to four weeks with a broken bone in his right hand. A team official said Saturday that Montgomery is expected to miss 10 days.
Linebacker Matt Sinclair said he has an AC joint separation in his right shoulder, but he practiced Sunday. Sinclair said he had the injury in college and was able to play through it.
Then there were four
The Redskins signed 13 players one day after the NFL Draft. Granted a small percentage of undrafted rookie free agents make NFL rosters, but only four of those players remain on Washington’s 80-man roster - and the Redskins are only eight days into camp.
Brown, a guard out of Appalachian State, was the last one removed from the roster. Those final four remaining are tackle Devin Clark, wideout Horace Gant, linebacker Curtis Gatewood and cornerback Matteral Richardson.