INDIANAPOLIS – Two weeks ago,
Looking for bright moments among a night of setbacks, reporters politely asked Rayford a question or two about his shining moment.
The free agent from Washington, by way of the CFL and Arena League, answered inquiries of people who probably thought they never would need to return to his locker.
How things have changed in two weeks.
The flurry of activity by Rayford on the field led to a mid-week frenzy at his locker at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center.
The former All-Arena League performer was comfortable and delivered one of training camp’s classic lines about the lengths he is taking to try to make his mark at football’s highest level.
“I always tell the story, you got the guys that get (in) the front door,” said Rayford to a media throng. “You got the guys that get (in) the back door. Then you got guys like me that got to climb the house and jump through the chimney.”
Rayford is proving to be quite the chimney expert. The 6-7, 267-pound linebacker had two of the Colts’ three sacks against Cleveland, adding an additional quarterback hit and a forced fumble.
“I’m just overly blessed. I just thank the Lord for the opportunity,” said Rayford in a sweaty uniform just moments after the Colts’ 27-6 win. “It’s still coming down the chimney, definitely. It’s crazy.”
Rayford took down Jason Campbell on the second play of the final quarter for a nine-yard loss.
On Cleveland’s next possession, Rayford again took Campbell down. The sack was nullified by off-setting penalties, but he was not through on the possession.
Rayford sacked Campbell again six plays later, forcing another fumble that Cleveland recovered. The Browns were held to a field goal. The Colts went onto a win.
People formed at Rayford’s locker again.
“It feels good. I’m just glad everyone else (is playing),” said Rayford in spreading credit among his reserve teammates. “It’s not just me making plays, it’s everyone else around. I’m definitely grateful for that. It is a blessing. I’m just happy for the opportunity to go out and make plays.”
In having 90-man rosters in training camp, teams have attrition rates as they reach the regular season limit of 53 players.
The first such cut comes after this game when teams must drop to 75 players. By about this time next week, rosters go from 75 to 53. Players across the league hold their breath.
Players like Rayford have another chance to make themselves indispensable.
“It was just my vision to come in, work hard and to make plays,” said Rayford of his camp approach. “That was my whole goal. I expect to make plays, but I’m making some great plays out there.”
Rayford used the work “relevant” this past week to describe how he wanted to gain the attention of coaches.
Asked if Saturday’s performance against the Browns helped him stay relevant, Rayford said, “I guess. There still are a couple of things I have to work on. We’ll see how it goes. I’ll just watch film. I just want to make plays.”
Playing major college football and in two professional leagues before reaching Indianapolis, Rayford knows it is a team game. He is fighting with others to find a landing spot at the bottom of the chimney.
He is humble, not wanting to draw a personal spotlight for a sport where others toil as plays are made.
“Everybody’s effort was phenomenal,” said Rayford. “Everyone worked together to make plays. That’s why everyone excels.
“When 11 guys are on the field doing everything right, everyone looks good. That’s how it’s supposed to be. It’s 11 people doing it. Everyone is working together.”