By Jim Gehman, Player Engagement Insider
The NFL waiver wire is more than just a list of names. They are men. This is their livelihood. This is life-changing.
Demetrius Rhaney, an offensive lineman heading into his fourth season in the league, was at a DMV in Los Angeles in June, when he received a call on his cell phone.
“Normally I don’t answer numbers that’s not saved in my phone, and for some reason I picked it up and it and it was (Los Angeles Rams head coach) Sean McVay,” said Rhaney, who was a seventh-round pick of the then-St. Louis Rams in 2014 out of Tennessee State. “He just was saying I had a good offseason, good OTAs and mini-camp; they’re just going to go in a different direction. And then I found out they had to sign four of their rookies, so I fell in that loop of the four guys that got released.”
Did Rhaney have a sense it may happen?
“No, not at all,” he said. “When (center) Tim Barnes got released (in March), I thought I was going to have a legit shot at competing for a starting job. And they signed (ninth-year veteran) John Sullivan. He was with McVay (last season when McVay was the offensive coordinator) in Washington, so he pretty much was handed the spot. No competition, no nothing.
“Then they signed (second-year veteran) Austin Blythe. I was like, ‘OK. Well, I’ve got to compete with Austin for the second-string spot.’ I felt pretty confident. I learned the system quick. I’m familiar with (new offensive line) coach (Aaron) Kromer and I felt pretty good about it. I felt I had good OTAs and I didn’t expect that at all.”
After spending his rookie season on injured reserve, Rhaney saw action in all 16 games in both 2015 and 2016. He was waived by the Rams on June 20. The league rule is that a player placed on waivers cannot be claimed by another team for 24 hours. It wasn’t an easy day for the Fort Lauderdale, Florida native and his agent, Christina Phillips.
“As soon as it happened, my agent got on the phone and spoke to a couple teams who she was familiar with,” Rhaney said. “They were wondering why is the veteran being released this late in the offseason while we’re getting ready to go into training camp. Is he hurt? And she’s like, ‘No, he’s 100 percent (healthy). He’s fine.’
“After that, she really didn’t know what was going to happen because the 90-man rosters were full. So, we’d have to wait and see. You have to be on waivers for 24 hours. That next day, a couple calls came in. The Jaguars called and the Saints called. So, I knew it was going to be out of those two that were going to claim me.”
It was Jacksonville.
Rhaney looked at joining the Jaguars as a fresh start. “Yeah, without a doubt,” he said. “I need that little fire to put that chip back on my shoulder. So, whenever I get the opportunity, I’ll be ready.
“I think I’ve learned the system pretty quick. I feel pretty good about it. But I’m not getting many reps right now. Hey, I only can control what I can control, and whenever my number’s called I’ll get in and do what I got to do.
“When I was young, I’d be mad about not getting reps and stuff like that and call Christina. But hey, it is what it is. And whatever reps I get, make the best of it and we’ll see how it works out in the end.”