Ben Guidugli figured he had more incentive than most of the other rookies fighting for a spot on the Rams' regular-season roster. Namely, a fiancee; a son, 2; and a daughter, 1, waiting for him in Cleveland, hoping to see an NFL paycheck in the near future.
"Every day I had a little bit more motivation than maybe some other guys, because it wasn't just about me; I wanted to do it for my family," said Guidugli, a tight end from the University of Cincinnati. "That pushed me throughout the whole process."
Guidugli (pronounced guh-DOO-lee) arrived at Rams Park five weeks ago as a free agent, passed over in the draft and "with a chip on my shoulder. I just wanted to prove that I belonged here," he said.
The odds are long for any undrafted rookie, but Guidugli earned a spot among the final 53. He beat out Fendi Onobun, the Rams' sixth-round draft choice in 2010, to land one of four jobs at tight end.
"You always feel bad when stuff like that has to happen, but I guess that's the business," Guidugli said. "Fendi actually called me after the deadline and he said congratulations to me and he said that I earned it. He just wished me the best of luck, and I wished him the best of luck."
The only other undrafted rookie to make the club was long-snapper Jake McQuaide.
The 6-foot-1, 230-pound Guidugli, 23, caught 22 passes for 342 yards and three touchdowns as a Bearcats senior and was a second-team All-Big East selection. He spent most of Saturday at the team hotel with rookie wide receiver Austin Pettis, awaiting the 5 p.m. (St. Louis time) deadline for the last cuts to be made.
"Every time my phone would buzz or ring from a family member asking me what was going on, I'd jump," said Guidugli, a native of Fort Thomas, Ky. "You're scared that they're going to call you and tell you to come in, that you've been released. I was seeing guys going in and out all day, not looking too happy. You just wonder if your phone's the next one to ring."
Tight ends in new coordinator Josh McDaniels' offense are asked to do a lot. According to general manager Billy Devaney, Guidugli showed that he could fill the various roles.
"He's a guy we used in multiple positions," Devaney said. "He caught the ball pretty good, he can play fullback, he can play on the line of scrimmage, in motion. He gave us a lot of versatility."
As an undrafted contender, Guidugli knew that he had to make an early impression. He did so in the preseason opener vs. Indianapolis, with a crushing crackback block that had his teammates celebrating on the sideline.
"I was definitely pleased that the coaches noticed that I have ability and I can play every Sunday and do the job that they expect me to do," Guidugli said. "I'm just looking forward to going out there Sundays and doing my job."
That's the next task for Guidugli: getting on the field. The roster certainly will be shuffled somewhat before Sunday's regular-season opener against Philadelphia. Guidugli still could wind up on the practice squad. Or worse.
Still, he's taken the first, and biggest, step.
"When that deadline passed, (Pettis and I) both said, 'I think we're good now,' and we just kind of laughed about it," Guidugli said. "It was a stressful day, but it ended up being a very exciting day."
Six join practice squad
Six players who had been with the Rams during training camp have been signed to the eight-man practice squad: cornerback Tim Atchison, defensive tackle John Henderson, tackle Kevin Hughes, tackles Ryan McKee, safety Jonathan Nelson and running back Chase Reynolds.
The team also expects to add rookie linebacker Scott Lutrus to the practice squad, pending a physical exam today. Lutrus, a Connecticut product who had been in Jacksonville's camp, agreed to contract terms Sunday.