|The NFL, unlike Major League Baseball or the NBA, has no roster deadline for playoff eligibility. Teams are allowed to sign free agents and practice squad players to the active roster and use those players in playoff games, even if those players never appeared on that team's 53-man roster during the regular season.|
This happens fairly often. In 2011, there were 9 such players, most notably David Binn, longtime Charger long snapper, who joined the Broncos just before their divisional round game with the Patriots. (Though the Broncos lost, Binn had a better day than another playoff-only long snapper did back in 2002.) These players are usually signed when a team suffers multiple injuries at a single position; it is probably not a coincidence that NFL teams with players who only appeared for that team during the postseason are a combined 44-58 in those games.
The 14 players in the table below are unique in that their only NFL game experience came during the postseason.
Played in an NFL playoff game, no career regular season games:
|Edward Lee||Detroit Lions||1982||NFC-FR ||WAS 31, DET 7||WR/KR||On roster previous two weeks, but did not play.|
Career-ending knee injury in 1983,
which led directly to his future career.
|Vance Bedford||St. Louis Cardinals||1982||NFC-FR ||GB 41, STL 16||CB||On roster previous week, but did not play.|
Activated after Roger Wehrli put on IR.
Spent 1983 with USFL's Oklahoma Outlaws.
Now Louisville's defensive coordinator.
|Anthony Spears||Houston Oilers||1989||AFC-FR ||PIT 26, HOU 23 (OT)||DE||Signed off practice squad.|
Activated after CB Richard Johnson was suspended
for arguing with secondary coach Nick Saban.
Cut by 1990 Cowboys in training camp.
|Cornell Thomas||San Diego Chargers||1994||AFC-D ||SD 22, MIA 21||DE||On roster entire season, but did not play.|
On roster for rest of playoffs; cut in next preseason.
|James Manley||Minnesota Vikings||1996||NFC-FR||DAL 40, MIN 15||NT||2nd round draft pick. |
On roster entire season, but did not play.
Made 3 tackles in garbage time.
Cut after Week 1 in 1997.
|Brandon Christenson||Oakland Raiders||2002||AFC-C||OAK 41, TEN 24||TE||On roster for first playoff game, but did not play.|
Tore Achilles in game.
On IR during Super Bowl,
as were fellow TE Marcus Williams and Roland Williams.
|Jason Stewart||Indianapolis Colts||2004||AFC-D ||NE 20, IND 3||DT||Signed off practice squad.|
Made one tackle.
Signed before Week 2 of following season,
but released after game.
|Marcus Lawrence||New York Giants||2005||NFC-FR||CAR 23, NYG 0||LB||Signed off practice squad.|
Made a tackle on the opening kickoff.
Played for the Spokane Shock of the Arena League.
|R.J. Cobbs||New York Giants||2006||NFC-FR||PHI 23, NYG 20||DB||Signed off practice squad.|
Activated after Corey Webster put on IR.
Cut in offseason.
|Gerard Ross||Seattle Seahawks||2006||NFC-D||CHI 27, SEA 24 (OT)||DB||Signed off practice squad.|
The top three Seattle CB were injured.
Cut in following preseason.
|Jamie Petrowski||Tennessee Titans||2007||AFC-FR||SD 17, TEN 6||TE||Signed off practice squad.|
Activated after Bo Scaife on IR.
On Colts' roster Weeks 12-14 of 2008.
|Nate Bussey||New Orleans Saints||2011||NFC-FR||NO 45, DET 28||LB||Signed off practice squad.|
Activated after two Saints LB were injured Week 17.
On roster following week; currently in training camp.
|Chad Spann||Pittsburgh Steelers||2011||AFC-FR||DEN 29, PIT 23 (OT)||RB||Signed off practice squad.|
Activated after both Rashard Mendenhall
and Mewelde Moore were injured.
Cut in offseason; currently unsigned.
|D'Andre Goodwin||Denver Broncos||2011||AFC-D||NE 45, DEN 10||WR||Signed off practice squad.|
Activated after Eric Decker injured.
Currently in training camp.