Havner will continue his quest of earning a spot on NFL roster | TheUnion.com

Havner will continue his quest of earning a spot on NFL roster

He had been down this road before, but facing the final cut for a NFL team was still nerve-wracking for Spencer Havner this time around.

Havner, who starred at linebacker for Nevada Union High School before earning several national and Pac-10 honors at UCLA, did all he could do to earn a spot with the Green Bay Packers after four preseason games and two seasons worth of work on the team’s practice squad.

“Having gone through it makes it easier in just knowing what to expect and not being blind-sided,” Havner said after playing in his final preseason game last week.

But then came waiting game, as Green Bay general manager Ted Thompson and head coach Mike McCarthy made their final decisions on the 53-man roster.

Havner was among the final 22 players cut from the team Saturday.

Having spent two years on the practice squad, Havner seemed to have an inside shot at one of the team’s linebacker spots after last season. But when Green Bay brought in free agent Brandon Chillar, who roomed with Havner for a year at UCLA, the writing was on the wall.

Competition at linebacker had grown even tighter and, for Havner, more personal.

“We lived together for a year in college,” Havner said after Green Bay’s preseason game in San Francisco last month. “I was kind of showing him around when he first got here. You know, he’s my buddy.

“But then he’s in front of me (on the team’s depth chart). That’s the business of it, though.”

Last season, Green Bay kept only five linebackers on its roster, with another, Abdul Hodge, on injured reserve. All five of those linebackers ” starters A.J. Hawk, Nick Barnett and Brady Poppinga, along with reserves Desmond Bishop and Tracy White ” were back fighting for a roster spot this season.

And with the addition of Chillar and fellow undrafted free agent Danny Lansanah, Havner looked like the “long shot” the Green Bay Press-Gazette deemed him to be to make the squad.

“It’s one of the deepest positions on the team, with all the talent there,” Havner said. “I definitely knew it was going to be hard. I just decided to put my head down and worked to stay with this team, where I was comfortable.

“That’s tough. You get to know everybody … all the coaches, all the players … making friends. And then you might have to leave. That’s tough.”

His frustration grew with the progression of the preseason schedule, as he found few opportunities to make an impression due to limited playing time. Over the course of the four-game slate, Havner had a total of two tackles and saw the vast majority of his game action on special teams.

That lack of field time won’t be much help to him in looking for another team. Without recent game film to show what he can bring to a ballclub, he’ll likely have to make his case on a team’s practice squad. Whether that will be with the Packers ” who paid him $90,000 as a practice player last season ” remains to be seen.

“I don’t mind the practice squad,” Havner said. “The money is fine, but the thing about being on the practice squad is that you’re still on the team. You still have a chance to make the roster. You’re still alive, basically.”

Last season, Havner signed with the practice squad 24 hours after being cut from the roster. He said he’d likely sign again, if he deems it as the best deal on the table.

“I think I’ve become a better play each year,” Havner said. “Whether it’s an active roster spot or a spot with a practice squad, whichever opportunity comes my way, I’m probably going to take it.”

To contact Sports Editor Brian Hamilton, e-mail bhamilton@theunion.com or call 477-4240.

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