The journey to this point of the NFL season for Jets safety Rontez Miles has been a long one, but the announcement this week that he has been plucked from the practice squad to the active roster points toward a larger role for Miles moving forward.
An undrafted rookie free agent from last year's draft class, Miles came to the NFL from unheralded California University of Pennsylvania, a Division II program in the western part of the state. From offseason workouts to rookie minicamp and then training camp last year, Miles showed enough potential to always hang around as his guts and work ethic was a cut above the rest. Then when he made the practice squad and eventually was activated for one game last year, he was ecstatic.
On Tuesday, he missed a couple calls from the team, asking him to report to the facility. He hasn't played this whole season, stuck on the practice squad and uncertain about his future with the team and in the league. The calls didn't specify why they needed him, just that they needed him.
“At this point in the season, you don't know what to expect,” Miles told Metro.“It was, 'We're trying to get in touch with you.' My agent was trying to get in touch with me. I figured it was probably pretty good news if my agent was involved. But you still don't know. He texted me that it was important, that I needed to get over there. So that's what I did.”
At that point, Miles quickly hurried from the house he shares with teammate Sheldon Richardson - “I'm just tagging along, I'm happy to be in the house with him” - and got to the facility where he met with Jackie Davidson, Manager of Football Administration. She sat down with Miles and explained the process and that he was getting bumped up.
Davidson explained the contract and Miles signed it quickly. He then headed back to his house shared with Richardson and teammate Walter Powell.
“He kept punching me in the arm, he was so excited and that. 'I'm going to be active' stuff like that,” Richardson told Metro. “He was really happy and he deserves it. He really sticks out on film when you watch practice.”
This year, he had ambitions of making the active roster from the get-go but instead was one of the final cuts at the end of preseason. He thought he might not have a future with the team, that his best shot at playing in the NFL might be somewhere else.
Instead after a day on waivers, he was signed to the practice squad where he's been the entire time up until this week.
“I thought it might happen at the beginning of the year, it might happen sooner. But now, yea it caught me off guard. I didn't know how long this practice squad opportunity might be there,” Miles said.“I thought when I was on the waiver list for that whole day in the summer, I expected to get picked up. I thought I'd get an opportunity. Figured I'd be somewhere else but I'm glad I'm not. This is where I want to be the whole time.
Last season, Miles was active for two weeks and played one game then was active the next week (which was a bye week) until the Jets sent him back down.
On Wednesday, head coach Rex Ryan cited Miles and his work ethic over the past two years, heaping praise on the under the radar rookie who last year made the practice squad and who now is set for a role over the final two games of this season.
“He’s the guy that deserves it and all his teammates will tell you same thing. When you go talk to everybody in that locker room, they’re going to be excited that Rontez is up,” Ryan said. “Just the type of work ethic he has and I thought he really earned it, so when we made that decision, a lot of it was based on Rontez Miles.”
His teammates, like Richardson and of course his head coach, love the intensity that Miles brings. On Thursday, he was banged up a bit after practice, wearing ice on his right leg after getting tangled up with a teammate. He was asked if it might keep him off the field this weekend.
He answered simply “Awww hell no. They'd have to break my neck to keep me out."
“As far as I'm concerned, I will do whatever I can to help this team. I will play special teams and help there. Add depth at the safety position, got a couple guys banged up. I wouldn't be surprised if I got called up for a couple reps on defense. As of right now, I think I'm here to help and add depth. I wouldn't be surprised if I'm needed. I'm going to be ready, defense or special teams,” Miles said. "I'm very loud and outspoken. I'm that guy at practice. I try to be the guy that brings energy. A lot of coaches say I bring a lot of energy, that I give them a good look. Sunday, I just want to help as best I can like I do in practice.”