The percentage of players that stick around after making it to the NFL is a small number.
For undrafted rookies Saeed Blacknall and Jason Cabinda, they're learning quickly that they'll have to pay their dues in order to do what they're passionate about long term, but that's okay. They're ready for the obstacles that lie ahead, and are hopeful that things will work out in their favor.
Blacknall, a wide receiver, and Cabinda, a linebacker, both had exceptional performances for the Raiders throughout training camp and the preseason. Cabinda led the team in tackles three out of four games, and Blacknall recorded three receptions for 58 yards and one touchdown in the preseason finale. And while the pair didn't make the initial 53-man roster, the product both players put on film the last couple months was too good for the Raiders coaching staff to ignore.
Following roster cuts Saturday afternoon, Blacknall and Cabinda were both notified they had been signed to the practice squad. Even though the players on the practice squad aren't apart of the 53-man roster, it's a great opportunity for a pair of young players looking for their chance in the NFL.
"It's just an amazing feeling and it goes to all the hard work since college to the pre-draft stuff, and the OTAs," Blacknall said. "My whole goal was just to make the team and set myself up for the best opportunity, whether it was making the team or practice squad. My goal was just to get in the building and stay here as long as possible."
Cabinda shared a similar sentiment.
"Obviously going in through training camp your goal is to make the 53, so obviously a lot of hunger there. Still want to get better, but I'm just happy for an opportunity though," he explained. "At the end of the day there's still a lot of dudes that are at home looking for a job. Thankful that I was liked enough to be kept in this building, thankful for this opportunity, and hungry to get better."
Through the years, the Raiders have elevated many players up from the practice squad to the 53-man roster, showing that the move is certainly not impossible. For players like Blacknall and Cabinda, knowing that players such as Seth Roberts, Keon Hatcher, and Fadol Brown have risen through the ranks to earn their spot on the active roster provides a path for them to follow.
Roberts got his first real action in 2015, and since then has totaled 113 receptions for 1,332 yards, and 11 touchdowns. Seeing the ground work Roberts has laid is an encouraging reminder that hard work truly does pay off.
"That's the thing about it that makes it hopeful, and makes you want to grind harder," Cabinda said. "I know a lot of guys who are here right now who were on the practice squad just last year, but are on the 53 right now, and obviously that's a similar path that you want to take. I'm just going to keep waiting for my number to get called."
The two are making the most of their opportunities, and they have a wealth of experience around them. Whether it's Jordy Nelson, or Derrick Johnson, Blacknall and Cabinda can learn how to be a pro from guys who've been pros on and off the field for years.
"They're always in my ear," Blacknall said. "For one, I'm always learning each and every day, always asking a lot of questions just trying to absorb as much as I can about this lifestyle and being a rookie. Guys like Seth, Hatch, Coop, and Jordy are always in my ear telling me the dos and don'ts and what to look out for."
The practice squad might not seem like the most important job on the team, but for the 10 players on it, it's all they need to continue showing what they're made of.