The Redskins tight end had been on the practice squad for the entire season and finished his first full year on a team with a promotion to the active roster.
After numerous stints on practice squads, multiple cuts and new opportunities, tight end Manasseh Garner has accumulated enough experiences and packed suitcases to put into perspective a whole year spent with one team.
For the past couple of years, Garner has made a living being "comfortable in uncomfortable situations," he said, not an easy task but one he has taken seriously enough to be able to stay on the Redskins practice squad for the last 16 weeks.
It's the first time in his young career he has managed to play for one team for an entire season, and this week his dedication was rewarded with an activation to the 53-man roster for the Redskins' final game of the 2017 season.
"I mean, in all honesty for me, it's just…it's a promotion," Garner said. "It just means that they value my effort. They value the work I've put on the field. For me, it's just like it's an evaluation. They're paying attention and they like what they see. That's how I take it."
He's right, of course. The coaches might not need him to dress for the Giants, and even if he does, playing in one game before the offseason won't exactly lend him the fulfillment he's been looking for. But Garner – after brief stints with the Chiefs, Browns, Bills, Broncos and Bills, one more time – realizes this is still an opportunity he hasn't been afforded much in his career.
Check out these photos of the Redskins' offense preparing for their Week 17 game against the New York Giants Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017, at the Inova Sports Performance Center at Redskins Park.
Garner is the last player on the roster that has spent the entire season on the practice squad, surviving the swarm of injuries that have plagued many position groups and waiting patiently in a tight ends group that has, besides Jordan Reed, stayed relatively healthy throughout the whole year.
"For me, the way I look at it is you're doing your job, you're doing your part, you control the controllable," Garner said. "There were many players earlier in the season, and it was down to two tight ends. They could've activated me then, but there were other position groups that were really, really banged up, like the O-line. I mean, with this game, it's such a physical game, you just never know. You've just got to continue to focus on your craft and be patient. I'm just blessed to first, finish the season healthy and to be promoted."
Garner has worked closely with tight ends coach Wes Phillips, who he says is always in his ear and has helped him "grow tremendously." The same goes for his locker mates in Vernon Davis and Niles Paul, veterans that have remained competitive in everything they do and have challenged Garner in every aspect of his game.
"There's a saying, 'The minute you stop and look at what you master, then you stop developing.' I don't let my mind get to that point," Garner said.
Over the course of the season, Garner has taken that mindset with him on the scout team, continuing to work on his craft as he prepares the starters on defense for their upcoming opponents. Garner doesn't receiver much instruction about mimicking any players or styles – it's just an opportunity to win a battle against a starting defensive back or lineman.
"They give us a route on the card," Garner said. "They don't tell you to run it a specific way. It's just X's and O's. They give you a route, the rest you've got to win. That's where the creativity comes in and just owning your craft. That's what separates professional athletes in this game. That's been my biggest mindset, is just taking what they show me on the card and just making it my own."
Garner has been active for only one other regular season game, playing for Buffalo for one game last October, before he was released and signed back to the practice squad.
He will only have one opportunity again this year, but will enter the offseason feeling more confident about the team's perception of him and with the stability he's finally earned.