Jake Carlock will have the second-best view of Sunday’s game between the Giants and the Bills.
The best, of course, would be on the sideline and in uniform, playing for the team he rooted for while growing up in Babylon.
Maybe that perspective will come at some point. For now, Carlock will take his perch in a suite at MetLife Stadium, which is where he and other members of the 10-man Giants practice squad will watch the action.
“They hook us up with some pretty decent seats,” Carlock said. “I’ll just be rooting for the guys and all my friends on the team.”
Carlock is on the team. Sort of.
The practice squad is a strange subset on every NFL roster. During the week, they are full-fledged members of the squad, practicing with the team (as the name implies), attending meetings, hanging out in the locker room. When injuries arise, they often are on a team’s short list for a promotion. On game days, though, they are left behind and clearly not members of the 53-man active roster.
Last week, for example, Carlock watched the Giants play the Cowboys on television from his home in Babylon. It was no different from just about any other September Sunday that he could remember. But it was vastly different, too. Those were his pals and buddies and teammates on the field. And they were running plays that he recognized from their week of preparation.
“Not much has changed throughout my whole life, but now it’s a little more special,” he said of watching the Giants play. “I get to root a little bit harder now, I guess.”
This week, he will get to do it in person.
Carlock said he’ll have no sense of bittersweetness, no thoughts of “what if” when he watches this game. That’s not to say he is content with his place on the practice squad, but he certainly understands that it is an honor to be on it. Especially for a kid who spent his first summer in the NFL learning a new position and adjusting to the pro game after two seasons at Division II LIU Post.
“At the beginning of my journey, if you told me I would be on the practice squad, I would have been thrilled,” he said of his beginnings as an undrafted rookie free agent immediately after the draft in the spring.
He was waived by the Giants on cutdown day, and many of his friends and family members interpreted that as the end of the road for his dream. Carlock, though, left the Giants’ facility after he was cut feeling positive about his chances for coming back on the practice squad. The following day, he returned to the building and signed his new contract.
“When that day came, I was pumped,” he said. “Even though I don’t get to play in the games, I’m still practicing every day, I’m still part of the team and the organization, so I’m loving it.”
So what does he do on the practice squad?
The short answer: Whatever they want him to do.
Carlock generally lines up on the scout teams, running the plays of the upcoming week’s opponents. He plays defense, his listed position at linebacker, and handles all of the long snapping for the “opponent.” But he also flips over to the other side of the ball. In the first two weeks, he’s gotten to line up as a tight end, a fullback and even a wide receiver.
“It kind of brought me back to the high school days when I was playing on the offensive side of the ball,” he said. “It’s fun because I always wanted to play offense in college but I was never allowed to, so it’s kind of cool to get back to it here.”
He has yet to catch any passes.
“I didn’t even get it thrown to me,” he said.
That seems to be about the only aspect of the experience he laments.
Carlock’s role is to help the 53-man active roster get ready for the game in any way possible. That includes off the field.
This past week, for instance, the Giants claimed linebacker Tuzar Skipper off waivers from the Steelers. Also an undrafted rookie, Skipper trained with Carlock in New Jersey before their pro days. Because the two already knew each other and play the same position, Carlock became a tutor for Skipper.
“He’s in the same position as me and he’s been here since OTAs and training camp and things like that,” Skipper said of Carlock. “I’ll feel good going to him and ask him any questions.”
“Just like the vets did for me, I’ll help him out if he comes up to me with any questions,” Carlock said. “We’re trying to get him ready. He’s a great football player and I’m excited to see him play on Sunday.”
It certainly could have been Carlock added to the 53 rather than Skipper. The Giants had an empty roster spot over the weekend after losing outside linebacker Kareem Martin to a knee injury. Being on the practice squad, Carlock is just one transaction away.
It just wasn’t this one transaction.
“I’m good,” he said of his life on the fringe of the NFL. “Whenever they call my number I’ll be ready to go, but until then, I’m just going to do my job and do what they tell me to do. I’m thankful for the opportunity. They have a plan and I trust it. I’m ready to go whenever they need me.”
And if they do, the Giants will know where to find him. Right in their own locker room.
During the week, anyway. On game days?
He’ll be where he’s been all his life, watching and rooting for the Giants.
Just with a better view.