LINCOLN, Neb. — No hard feelings. No contract, but no hard feelings.
“It was fun, I enjoyed it,” former Nebraska Cornhuskers quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. told Land of 10 when asked about his first — brief — NFL experience. “It goes by fast, when everybody knows you’re going to get your work [done]. You’re in and out real quick and you’re going to meetings, you’re taking notes, and it goes by fast. But it’s fun.”
The Minnesota Vikings browsed, but ultimately didn’t buy. During their rookie minicamp last week, they tried Armstrong out at running back two days and safety for one. A pair of positions, by the way, he hadn’t tackled, full-time, since high school.
Old muscles. Old memories.
“I just wasn’t sure what I was going to play,” Armstrong said. “I drilled with [several units]. I just wanted to make sure I was prepared. Just in case.”
You can take the Peyton Manning Road to Canton or the Kurt Warner Road to Canton. The Warner Road is long, twisting, humbling, and much, much, much harder.
Most guys wind up on the Warner Road.
And a good chunk of those guys pack it in after the seventh or eighth stop. Or the third or fourth cut. The NFL is nothing if not succinct when it comes to dropping the hint.
— Land of 10 Nebraska (@Landof10Huskers) May 12, 2017
Which begs the question: Now what?
Quarterback? Tailback? Safety? Wide receiver?
“I guess just being able to keep my mind open for a change,” Armstrong said.
‘I think as a slot receiver, that’s where he fits best.’
– Josh Liskiewitz, Pro Football Focus
Logic dictates there’s a place in pro ball for a 6-foot-1, 220-pound player with a sledgehammer stiff-arm and a dancer’s feet, a fearless bulldozer who set school records at one of the iconic football outposts on God’s green earth in total offense (10,690 yards); passing yards (8,871); completions (625); passing touchdowns (67); and total touchdowns (91).
“I think as a slot receiver, that’s where he fits best,” Pro Football Focus college analyst Josh Liskiewitz said. “I like him with the ball in his hands. I think he can do some good things with the ball, so that’s probably where I would go.”
Fair enough. Here? Canada?
“I’m telling him to talk to the CFL,” Liskiewitz continued. “I’m guessing he’s on someone’s [watch] list … don’t know where. But that’s what I would do.
“At this point, he has to do whatever he can to stay in football. Because if he’s out of football for a year because no one picks him up, it’s going to be infinitely harder to [get] picked up, especially if he’s not going to be playing quarterback … I don’t care if it’s offense or defense, losing that year and having a year of not being on the field is going to be a killer.
“That being said, if he’s being [flexible] to move to safety right away, there might be opportunities in the CFL. And it might even be at quarterback. But I would take whatever opportunity is there if I were him.”
It’s Organized Team Activities — OTAs — Season, with NFL rosters in flux as teams suss out what they have and what they don’t, the late spring window in which rosters and playbooks get tweaked before the mid-June to late-July summer break. For a few months now, the doors — and ideas — are revolving.
But for the undrafted rookie, the catch is a Catch-22: For an opportunity, teams want to see you on film against the best peers possible. And film against the best peers possible usually takes some tenure with a team.
More tenure than a weekend, at least.
“It was kind of like fall camps for us, where we have two-a-days and things like that,” Armstrong said. “And you make sure you’re in and out and getting everything done [to] kind of get your body [right] and see how well you can adapt to being tired. Just going out there and doing your job. It was fun. It was a quick three days.”
Your head’s either in a playbook or on a swivel. The Vikings pitched the safety idea to Armstrong on Saturday night and trotted him out with the secondary on a Sunday.
He hadn’t done much work — hell, any work, really — at defensive back during his pro day in Lincoln. He’d last played defense on a regular basis as a sophomore at Steele High School in Cibolo, Texas.
“They didn’t give me the plays until Sunday morning, just before practice with coach [defensive backs coach Jerry] Gray and went over some stuff,” Armstrong recalled. “That was pretty much it.”
When the NFL pushes, it pushes from the high dive.
“Yeah, but I got a chance to go to meetings and stuff before practice, so it wasn’t too bad,” Armstrong continued. “I just had to listen. And [while] working out and everything, before I went out there, ask questions.”
You try relearning a position you haven’t played in six years, then go out and run it at an NFL speed against NFL hopefuls, with an NFL coaching staff sweating each and every dance step.
“It wasn’t too bad,” Armstrong said.
For all the people who told me “it couldn’t be done!!” Thank you 😎💯
— Tommy Armstrong Jr. (@Tommy_Gun4) May 7, 2017
He came. He saw. He crammed. Nada.
“The next thing he needs to figure out is if there’s interest at safety like there was in Minnesota, or is there a quarterback opportunity somewhere,” Liskiewitz said. “He needs to figure out what that is.
“If there are multiple teams that might be willing to consider him as a wide receiver in the future, he needs to probably start training for that now. It’s a complicated situation for him. They’ve got to kind of figure out what this market is.”
And, more to the point, where.
Unfortunately I got the call that they couldn’t make a second cut for me!!! Just want to say thank you to the @Vikings for the chance!!
— Tommy Armstrong Jr. (@Tommy_Gun4) May 12, 2017
“But it’s just a waiting game right now,” Armstrong said. “Working through it.”
Because there will be more potholes, more wrong turns, more cul-de-sacs, more humility, more false hope, more ditches waiting with open arms. On the Warner Road, it’s about how many times you get back up again.