On The Fringe: Following 5 players as they fight for NFL lives

Print is following five players who will grind through the heat, pain and demands of training camp in the hopes of making an NFL roster.

Tackle, San Francisco 49ers

A top tackle at Ohio State, Boone went from battling defensive ends to fighting alcoholism and the law. Now, with his life seemingly in order, he's in a battle for one of the final roster spots with the 49ers. More ...

Running back, Tennessee Titans

Once thought of as a top draft prospect, Blount punched an opponent -- and his ticket out of the draft entirely. Now the rookie seeks redemption, and a chance to show he's mature enough to be a backup to the NFL's top rusher. More ...

Linebacker, Seattle Seahawks

They said he was too small to play in the NFL, so the former Canadian decathlete who never played football until college went to the CFL and led that league in sacks. Now he's out to prove he can play with the big boys of the NFL. More ...

Wide receiver, San Diego Chargers

A two sport star who was drafted by the Chicago Cubs, Banks is trying to become a hit in football. His time is running out, however, after spending the last two seasons on the Chargers' practice squad. This could be his final shot. More ...

Safety, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The son of Hall of Famer Russ Grimm has had to scrap for everything in his football life. His challenge as an undersized safety with the Buccaneers will be no different than when he walked on at Virginia Tech. More ...

The tail end of the 80-man training camp roster is not a comfortable place. The ladder that must be climbed to make the final 53-man team is often greased like a carnival pig, with little to hold on to but hope. But for athletes with NFL dreams, even a little bit of hope is better than nothing.

As all 32 NFL teams brace for the start of training camps next month, roughly a third of the 2,560 players who report won't make the cut come September. The reality is that after the core group of returning veterans and an incoming rookie draft picks, there might be five open spots per team -- maybe.

Each season there are players who unexpectedly emerge, challenging others who fail to develop and those who get outplayed. For the second consecutive summer, will track five of these players, whose tenuous positions with their respective teams have them living On The Fringe.

We've targeted two rookies -- one with a pro football pedigree, another with a dubious history. We also will follow a former baseball player hoping to crack a roster with some of the league's best wide receivers; a Canadian Football League star trying to take his game to a new level; and a lineman whose sobriety and tough-love relationship with his head coach has led to a great opportunity.

None of these players -- 49ers tackle Alex Boone, Titans running back LeGarrette Blount, Seahawks defensive end Ricky Foley, Chargers wide receiver Gary Banks and Buccaneers safety Cody Grimm -- is assured of anything. They will have to work harder than most and do more on the field and in the meeting rooms simply to get noticed. These players are not starters. In fact, special teams might be their path to a career in the NFL.

It would be easy to say that their future is in their hands, but in reality, each could do everything right -- sit front and center in every meeting, learn every play, execute every drill -- and still not make it. At this level, talent wins, and these guys are on the fringe because, right now, their coaches think somebody is better. It won't be their first bout with adversity or rejection.

As they enter camp, they are hopeful. Each day will present a new challenge, but an injury, a new acquisition or a bad preseason game, and their dream could turn out to be a dream deferred or outright denied.

Their journeys should be compelling and inspiring. We will chronicle their lives -- on and off the field -- with frequent updates, often told in their own words. They want to share their quest to move from the fringe to the final 53, and in the end, they hope they've grown in enough ways that you will have too.



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