Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Played in an NFL playoff game, no career regular season games

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 LeeDetroit Lions1982NFC-FR WAS 31, DET 7WR/KROn roster previous two weeks, but did not play.
Career-ending knee injury in 1983,
which led directly to his future career.
Vance BedfordSt. Louis Cardinals1982NFC-FR GB 41, STL 16CBOn 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 SpearsHouston Oilers1989AFC-FR PIT 26, HOU 23 (OT)DESigned 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 ThomasSan Diego Chargers1994AFC-D SD 22, MIA 21DEOn roster entire season, but did not play.
On roster for rest of playoffs; cut in next preseason.
James ManleyMinnesota Vikings1996NFC-FRDAL 40, MIN 15NT2nd round draft pick.
On roster entire season, but did not play.
Made 3 tackles in garbage time.
Cut after Week 1 in 1997.
Brandon ChristensonOakland Raiders2002AFC-COAK 41, TEN 24TEOn 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 StewartIndianapolis Colts2004AFC-D NE 20, IND 3DTSigned off practice squad.
Made one tackle.
Signed before Week 2 of following season,
but released after game.
Marcus LawrenceNew York Giants2005NFC-FRCAR 23, NYG 0LBSigned off practice squad.
Made a tackle on the opening kickoff.
Played for the Spokane Shock of the Arena League.
R.J. CobbsNew York Giants2006NFC-FRPHI 23, NYG 20DBSigned off practice squad.
Activated after Corey Webster put on IR.
 Cut in offseason.
Gerard RossSeattle Seahawks2006NFC-DCHI 27, SEA 24 (OT)DBSigned off practice squad.
The top three Seattle CB were injured.
Cut in following preseason.
Jamie PetrowskiTennessee Titans2007AFC-FRSD 17, TEN 6TESigned off practice squad.
Activated after Bo Scaife on IR.
On Colts' roster Weeks 12-14 of 2008.
Nate BusseyNew Orleans Saints2011NFC-FRNO 45, DET 28LBSigned off practice squad.
Activated after two Saints LB were injured Week 17.
On roster following week; currently in training camp.
Chad SpannPittsburgh Steelers2011AFC-FRDEN 29, PIT 23 (OT)RBSigned off practice squad.
Activated after both Rashard Mendenhall 
and Mewelde Moore were injured.
Cut in offseason; currently unsigned.
D'Andre GoodwinDenver Broncos2011AFC-DNE 45, DEN 10WRSigned off practice squad.
Activated after Eric Decker injured.
Currently in training camp.