MISSOULA – Former Montana Grizzly running back Chase Reynolds didn’t hear his name during the NFL draft, but he did enough to impress the Seattle Seahawks and signed a free agent contract with the team in 2011. He lasted only two weeks in Seattle before being cut. But just a few days later, the Rams picked up the Drummond native. And he has spent the past six years with the organization.
Reynolds learned a lesson about the league early on that has stayed on his mind during this offseason.
“The first meeting (Rams head coach) Jeff Fisher ever walked into he said the hardest thing is not making an NFL team. It’s staying on an NFL team. For some reason, that stuck with me,” said Reynolds during a recent interview in Missoula.
He found a way to keep sticking around. Even after Fisher was fired during a tumultuous first season for the Rams in Los Angeles, and another one-year contract expired, Reynolds clearly has shown the Rams his value.
“My special teams coach, John Fassel, who I’ve played for the last five years, is really on my side. And he’s fought tooth and nail for me to come back,” said Reynolds, who has become one of the best special teams players for the Rams. “But as far as kind of my numbers right now, we’re on different levels as far as money — what the Rams want to pay and what I think I’m worth.”
The Grizzlies’ all-time touchdowns leader has never gone this far into an offseason un-signed. But he says several teams have shown interest, and he still hopes to work out a deal with the Rams.
There’s always somebody younger and cheaper fighting for your spot in the NFL. Reynolds noticed he had moved into veteran status last season, when he suddenly became the fourth-oldest player on his team.
“You say, well how old are you? And the kid says 20. And you’re like, oh my gosh. I am the old guy, and I’m still in my 20s,” he said.
Reynolds still wants to play, but going through a string of one-year contracts has forced him to look into the future. His family has built a house in Missoula. And he doesn’t fear a life without football.
“Basically every year I’m looking post-NFL career,” he admitted. “There’s a lot of opportunities that have come. I just put them in my back pocket. I’m always ready. In this business you never know. This could be my last year. Or last year could’ve been my last year. I’ve prepared. My family has prepared. My wife, we all know how this game ends. And most of the time it’s not a decision you make. It’s a decision they make for you.”
College stars celebrate this time every year when they get the call from the NFL. While discussions about the safety of football seem to grow louder and louder, those in the game can’t ignore the conversation.
Reynolds has lived the dream of many men in America. But when asked about the dangers of his sport, he admits conversations happen between teammates all the time, especially between veterans in his position.
“NFL as a whole they try to not talk about it. But as a family guy, a husband, and a father, I probably think about it a lot more than a 22-year-old who is playing the game because he loves it,” said Reynolds. “I love the game. But it’s my job. It’s what I do to put food on the table, to pay the bills for my family. It’s something I think about. And you start asking is the money worth it?”
Reynolds has thankfully stayed relatively healthy during his playing career, but the scary fact of football right now is no matter how well he trains or takes care of his body, continued hits to the head could still cause lasting damage down the line. And it’s currently impossible to predict who will suffer.
“Being an athlete and always trying to be a tough guy, that gets in the way,” said Reynolds. “That is an issue that probably a lot of guys have. It’s never going to be me. I’m too tough. I’ve only had one or two concussions. But the fact is it picks and chooses who it wants, and you don’t have a decision on it. So I just pray that we stay healthy, and that I get through this game fairly healthy, and be able to play with my kids and grandkids and enjoy life.”
Even with future plans in the works, Reynolds still wants to play at least one more year of football. He continues to search for another contract for next season.