When they are youngsters, they are called depth players.
When they’re older and more experienced, they are pro football’s version of fossils. They are found somewhere beneath the surface that is the starting lineup. Depending on whom you ask, they can be considered quite valuable.
It’s obvious that the Tennessee Titans consider the treasures because with Tuesday’s addition of Samon Gado, a 27-year-old running back with 41 career appearances for four different teams, they now can be found virtually anywhere on the depth chart.
“It is fair to say that we value experience,” general manager Mike Reinfeldt said. “We think that’s important.”
Days before Gado was signed, the Titans added defensive end Raheem Brock, who is 32. Just prior to the start of camp they added 30-year-old tight end Sean Ryan. Only Brock looked like a real competitor for a starting job.
Already in place throughout the offseason were 31-year-old Jamie Winborn at linebacker, 28-year-old free agent Tye Hill at cornerback, 30-year-old Donnie Nickey at safety and 29-year-old quarterback Chris Simms. Of that group, only Nickey has not been a regular starter at some point in his career.
“I think you look for a blend,” Reinfeldt said. “We’ve brought in some other young guys too. I think sometimes experience is something you’re looking for. Sometimes the youth is what you need. I think it’s a case-by-case basis.”
Gado took the place of free agent rookie running back Stafon Johnson, who was waived. The move with Johnson, who sustained a dislocated ankle Saturday at Seattle, was a procedural one, and the Titans planned to add him to its injured reserve list, which means he will be available to play again in 2011.
“In a perfect world, you prefer a guy that’s been in the training camp,” coach Jeff Fisher said. “We all pay attention around the league. People are looking for backs and signing backs. We decided to go with him because he’s played before and knows what to expect.”
They got someone who started five times and rushed for 582 yards and six touchdowns in 2005 as a rookie with Green Bay. He appeared in a career-high 15 games last season for St. Louis but rushed just 14 times for 26 yards.
He was not in camp with anyone. If fact, he was without a job through the offseason, and when the Titans called on Monday, he was studying for the MCAT, which he was scheduled to take on Sept. 9, with an eye toward eventually becoming a doctor.
“It’s hard, obviously,” Gado said. “Preseason games start and you see them on TV and you see yourself at home, you kind of have to start preparing for other things in case football isn’t in the cards. Thankfully it was.”
Presumably, he immediately became the No. 3 tailback behind Chris Johnson and Javon Ringer (neither has yet turned 25) and ahead of free agent rookie LeGarrette Blount, who was excused Tuesday for the second straight day to attend to personal business.
Gado made his first career start on Nov. 13, 2005, roughly one month after Green Bay signed him. He rushed for more than 100 yards that day and twice more in the next three contests but since has been unable to secure regular playing time.
“I think everybody has to work,” Gado said. “I didn’t think I’d have to be working this hard at this level, but it’s the nature of the beast. It’s how things have landed. I’m just happy to be here. I plan to work hard and hopefully climb the depth chart here.”
The Titans probably would prefer to have him stay right where he is.