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Former Griz start fast in NFL preseason
13 hours ago • By BILL SPELTZ of the Missoulian
The list has grown so long it’s hard to keep track of all the ex-Montana Grizzlies playing in the NFL.
Consequently, it takes more than just making a roster to turn heads around here. It takes the type of impact performances turned in by ex-Griz defensive stalwarts Shann Schillinger and Caleb McSurdy and speedster wideout Marc Mariani in preseason openers.
Start with Schillinger, a free safety for the Atlanta Falcons. Just last summer he was recuperating from a fractured ankle. Last Thursday he shared the team lead in tackles with six in a game against the Baltimore Ravens.
“I feel I’m a lot better this year than I was last year,” said Schillinger, a Baker native listed at No. 2 on the depth chart. “Last year I just got cleared right before training camp so I was a little unsure how the ankle was going to hold up.
“I felt I could take away some positives from (the preseason opener). I feel comfortable out there with the speed of the game – it’s starting to slow down for me a little bit. But at the same time there’s always corrections you can make.”
This year is critical for Schillinger. Making an NFL roster for a third year means he would qualify for the league’s pension plan, which would kick in when he’s 55 years old.
Of course he’s not thinking that far ahead now. The temperature at training camp in southern Georgia on Tuesday was close to 90 degrees with humidity that was close to 90 percent, testing the moxie of even the fittest players.
“I think people are lying if they say they enjoy every day of it,” he said. “It’s a grind, but there’s some positives you take from it. It makes you tougher and brings the team closer together. Put people through the ringer and see who survives.
“I heard a stat the other day where the Falcons have won, in the last four years since coach Mike Smith has been here, more games than anyone in the NFC. We’ve got a good group of guys and coaches. We just hope to have everyone stay healthy and come regular season we’ll be ready to roll.”
McSurdy has impressed with his blue-collar work ethic in his first training camp for the Cowboys in sunny southern California. On Monday his team played just up the road in Oakland, shutting out the Raiders, 3-0. McSurdy entered the game at middle linebacker in the second period and finished with four tackles.
“We’re in a linebacker meeting (Monday) night and every time the Cowboy offense was on we put it on mute and every time the Cowboy defense or special teams came on we paused our own film to watch our buddy No. 56,” said Griz defensive coordinator Ty Gregorak of McSurdy.
“He made some nice plays. He’s such a success story. It wasn’t just a couple months ago he was right there in this room with us and it’s a pleasure to watch him on the big stage.”
Montana’s most established NFL player, former Pro Bowler Mariani of Havre, had a team-high 52 yards receiving on two catches in a 27-17 loss Saturday at Seattle. He also had a 28-yard kick return.
Former Griz cornerback Trumaine Johnson, listed at No. 2 on the depth chart for the Rams, had four tackles in his preseason debut on Sunday. Teammate Chase Reynolds of Drummond, also a former Griz star, had three kick returns for 59 yards.
Unfortunately for the duo, St. Louis was shellacked by the Indianapolis Colts , 38-3.
A number of other former Griz made their presence felt, including the following:
• Atlanta backup defensive end Kroy Biermann recorded a sack.
• Minnesota third string running back Lex Hilliard had four carries for 12 yards in a 17-6 loss to the Niners.
• Levi Horn played at right tackle in his first game for the Vikings. He was with the Bears last season.
• Dan Carpenter kicked an extra point in the Dolphins’ loss to Tampa Bay.
• Backup cornerback Jimmy Wilson had a tackle for Miami.
NOTES: Ex-Griz Colt Anderson is on the physically unable to play (PUP) list for the Eagles ... Indianapolis wideout Jabin Sambrano is nursing an undisclosed injury and did not play Sunday.
Bill Speltz can be reached at 523-5255 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Kroy Biermann, Football, Nfl, National Football League, Caleb Mcsurdy, Atlanta Falcons, Shann Schillinger, Marc Mariani, Indianapolis Colts, Baltimore Ravens, Montana Grizzlies, Ty Gregorak, Lex Hilliard, Trumaine Johnson, Chase Reynolds, Levi Horn, Tampa Bay, Jimmy Wilson