Chicago Bears linebacker Patrick Trahan has always been a realist, understanding that even when things go wrong, everything can suddenly go right. His NFL journey to this point has been turbulent enough to give most roster hopefuls second thoughts about job security in the NFL.
"It's not for nothing that the players call the NFL the ‘Not for Long League'," Trahan said as he relaxed after practice in the newly redecorated locker room at Halas Hall.
The fact he's still in the league, and able to smile about his journey, is a testament to his perseverance and patience.
In the space of three years, Trahan has followed an uncertain career path. The Mississippi graduate was signed by the Tennessee Titans as an undrafted free agent (2010) but was cut six months later. He was the re-signed by the Titans – this time to the practice squad – then cut once more at the end of the 2010 season.
The Bears picked up Trahan as a member of the practice squad in January 2011, then waived him the following September. He was re-signed by Chicago as a member of the 53-man roster in November, only to be waived a year later in September of 2012.
Two days later, before Trahan had even left Chicago, the Bears brought him back to the practice squad. He was then elevated to the active roster once more on November 28, 2012, only to be let go again in December.
With the new season ahead of him, Trahan has been given another opportunity with the Bears. He is signed with the club through 2014, so is this finally Trahan's chance to relax, settle in and unpack his bags?
"I doubt it," he said, shaking his head.
Even Trahan's college career involved considerable relocation as the young linebacker played for Auburn (2006), Northwest Mississippi Community College (2007) and Ole Miss (2008-2009). As a senior at Ole Miss, Trahan recorded 98 tackles, 16.5 for loss, 7 sacks, 2 interceptions, 3 forced fumbles and 1 fumble recovery.
During his tenure with the Bears, Trahan has had little opportunity to build his stats, playing in just one game in 2012, yet he remains optimistic that the best years of his career are ahead of him.
"In this business, you can never get down on yourself; never give up," Trahan said. "If I didn't feel that way I wouldn't be here talking to you right now. There is something to be said for those players like myself who I would call quietly productive. We are the journeymen in there grinding away. I don't care about accolades, I just want to play."
Trahan has had a strong preseason and a productive training camp but he's well aware of the shadow of cuts that loom over every player this time of the year.
"It's something you can't dwell on," Trahan said. "I'm well aware of the competition for roster spots. There are some strong players on this team right now. But I have confidence in my abilities. I've been here for a while now and I feel that gives me an edge. I understand what is required to stick with the team. I am always out there learning, working and giving 100 percent."
"Sure, that puts extra pressure to succeed right here on my shoulders" Trahan said. "But there are still many opportunities to show what I can do. I am hoping for considerable playing time this week in Oakland."
Trahan feels his strengths lie in his ability to pick up schemes quickly and his overall speed on the field.
"Every year new skills are required because football is constantly changing," he said. "Right now read-options are important. Next month it could be something else. Each team stresses certain skills and philosophies. As a player, you've got to be able to be flexible and roll with the punches. There's a new staff in here and the Bears system has been altered again, but the basics of strong defensive play remain. I feel that I am a good fit with what is happening."
Does Trahan's experience give him an edge?
"Let me give you a minor example," he said. "Before camp I checked on the mattress situation in the dorm. College beds can be hard. I found out that TempurPedic was a sponsor so I figured they'd provide good quality sleeping for us. Sure enough, I was right. Never been so comfortable in camp and I didn't bring my own mattress like some of the guys did."
Can he translate that exeprience into an eventual roster spot?
"Sure," he said. "It's all about being smart, whether preparing for training camp or learning the plays. You've got to be ahead of the curve. If you're not, then you're going to be out of here."
Beth Gorr has been covering the Bears for the last 12 years and is the author of Bear Memories: The Chicago-Green Bay Rivalry. She is currently working on a second book about early Bears history.