Oakland Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer taking the snap from center Alex Parsons at Raiders 2012 minicamp (photo by Levi Damien)
For the past two Raiders training camps, Alex Parsons has been trying to crack the Raiders roster. The Raiders signed him as an undrafted free agent in 2010. He didn't make the final regular season roster and was signed to the practice squad. He was then invited back to the team for 2011. But yet again he couldn't crack the roster and spent the season on the practice squad.
Parsons went undrafted out of USC and was considered somewhat of a project as he had switched from defensive line to offensive line during his time with the Trojans. So whomever chose to sign him would be embarking on the Alex Parsons project.
Once he made the switch to offense in his sophomore season at USC, he played both offensive guard and center though he wasn't able to distinguish himself which led to his not getting drafted. Being a California native, when the Raiders came calling, he knew where he wanted to play. He has come to work every day for the Raiders but he has yet to set foot on a regular season NFL field for the team. He is working hard to see to it that will change this season.
"It's always a goal to make the team but the struggles we had with me the last couple of years being cut and everything just kind of taught me humility." Said Parsons. "Just trying to come in a win a spot.
"Getting cut a couple of times, last year thinking I was going to make the team and being one of the last cuts, it hurt me a little but you just gotta bounce back."
Barring any kind of major setback, he is in line for his best shot at earning a job on this team. He is the team's primary backup at center and his versatility to play either guard position also makes him a great asset.
Increasing his odds of fitting into this offensive line rotation is his athleticism. When the Raiders signed him as a UDFA, they were still running the zone blocking scheme under then coach Tom Cable. He had already shown his intelligence by his ability to make the switch from defense to playing center and guard. He then performed well in the 40 yard dash and 20-yard split at the NFL combine. Where he lacked was experience and strength.
He has gained plenty of both the past two seasons for the Raiders. He was around 300 pounds coming out of college. With the Raiders playing in the power blocking scheme, he bulked up to 325 pounds onto his 6-4 frame. And Since the new coaching staff has come onboard, he trimmed his weight almost all the way back to the 300 pounds he weighed when he came out of college.
"You do what everyone else does, you practice every day and you go to meetings. You go to games and condition before the game and then watch the game. You look at the other team's schemes and playbooks so you can help the guys who were actually playing."
Stefen Wisniewski was drafted in the second round in 2011 as the Raiders next center. He is now practicing with that in mind. He will be given a long leash to be that guy but if the team discovers Wisniewski would be better off moving back to guard, they will make that move. The only other center on the roster is recent free agent signee, Colin Miller.
At this point though, Parsons just wants the fair shot to make the roster he wasn't given the past two years.
"They told me I was on the radar and that I will get a fair shot. I have been hearing that for years.
"There are guys around the league who have been on the practice squad for a couple of years, stick around and end up making it. All I want to do is contribute."
It appears like this time, he will be given the chance to do just that.