'It's A Grind': An NFL Player's Struggle For Survival

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Ross Ventrone has been hired, promoted, or fired by the New England Patriots no fewer than 29 times in two years. The transition the defensive back from Villanova made into the world of professional football has been different from what most people would assume, he tells Guy Raz, host of weekends of All Things Considered.

"For guys like me, it's a grind," Ventrone says. "I'm fighting every day for my job, and you never know what's going to happen."

Add to that the pressure players face to keep their bodies in perfect condition despite painful blows during practices and games.

"You're always an injury away from never playing again," Ventrone says.

Ventrone was cut after training camp. Three days later, he was re-signed. A couple weeks after that, he was cut again. On and on and on, just like that, for the past two years. A new NFL season begins Sept. 5, but unfortunately Ventrone has been cut again.

It comes down to numbers: NFL teams are allowed a maximum of 53 players, and Ventrone always comes in either #53 or #54. He has been able to make a decent living so far, but work is unpredictable.

"The money is good whenever it's coming in," he says, "its just a matter of how long its going to be coming in for."

Ventrone earns the NFL's minimum rookie salary, but only gets paid for the weeks he is on a the roster.

Ventrone is confident he will be back on the field this season as higher-ranking players are bound to suffer injuries.

"I don't wish it upon anybody, but it's a fact that guys are going to be getting hurt," he says.

It's that attitude that probably elevated him to play professional ball in the first place.

"I think there will be an opportunity," he says. "I just have to seize it."

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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