May 25, 2013
Stoneburner trying to stick around
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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Jake Stoneburner admittedly isn't used to his current predicament. In fact, the last time that he had to try to make a team, he was trying out for the eighth grade Karrer Middle School basketball squad.
"I haven't had to do this in a long time," Stoneburner said. "Middle school basketball was the last time that I really had to try out to make a team."
But that's exactly the situation the former Ohio State tight end currently finds himself in after going undrafted in last month's NFL Draft. Within an hour of the draft's conclusion, Stoneburner had signed a free agent contract with the Green Bay Packers, but that far from guarantees him a spot on the team's opening day roster.
As a result, Stoneburner is currently working through the Packers' organized team activities, trying to prove that he deserves to be on the team's final 53-man roster. Despite the plethora of tight ends currently present on Green Bay's roster, there may not be a better fit for the 6-foot-3, 249-pounder than the Packers, who have shown a propensity for utilizing players at his position in recent years.
"They run the type of offense that would suit me well and that's what I was looking for trying to get into the NFL," Stoneburner said. "Last year I think they had six (tight ends) on their 53 man roster. It's there for me to make it. I just gotta perform."
As it currently stands, including Stoneburner, the Packers possess seven tight ends on their roster. Jermichael Finley has a lock on the team's starting spot, and Andrew Quarless is poised to be his primary backup, but Green Bay is still looking to replace Tom Crabtree, a former undrafted free agent who turned into a consistent contributor for the Packers before leaving to sign a free agent contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this offseason.
Stoneburner will look to follow a path similar to Crabtree's -- from no-name free agent to reliable role player -- a process that begins with proving himself in the team's offseason program.
"I wish my name would've gotten called at the right time, but it is what it is. I think I wound up in the best situation that I could've," Stoneburner said. "The ball's in my court now."
The Dublin Coffman product -- who, yes, made his eight grade basketball team -- admitted that he was disappointed to not hear his name called during last month's draft. Although he believed at one point he had a promise to be picked by the Seattle Seahawks in the draft's seventh round, Stoneburner said that he thinks that a lack of production in his senior season (16 receptions, 269 yards, four touchdowns), as well as failing multiple physicals due to a torn meniscus in the months leading up to the draft each played a role in him being left as an undrafted free agent.
"Some (teams) just wouldn't even talk to me because of it," he said of his torn meniscus, an injury that he's suffered in each of the past two years. "Just not having a whole lot of stats really probably didn't help, but that's not going to stop me."
Stoneburner insists that his knee feels fine and that it shouldn't be an issue for him moving forward. It certainly didn't seem to affect his preparation in the months leading up to the draft, where he performed admirably at the NFL's Scouting Combine in February and ran a 4.53 time in the 40-yard dash at Ohio State's Pro Day in March. Those numbers weren't enough to find Stoneburner a home in the draft, but he's confident that they'll be put to good use in what he hopes will be an extended stay with one of the NFL's most-storied franchises.
"At the time I was pretty bummed, but looking back it was probably what was best," Stoneburner said. "Teams didn't pick you for a reason and you gotta figure out what that is. And then you gotta take that, critique it, and take it with you up to Green Bay.
"Show teams they made a mistake not drafting you."
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