Austin Reiter thought his time in Washington was finished when he was cut before the regular season. That changed earlier this week when he was signed back to the practice squad.
Several weeks after center Austin Reiter thought he had learned his fate with the Redskins, he picked up the phone to find another wrinkle in their relationship.
Earlier this week, Washington signed Reiter to the practice squad to provide some more depth at several positions that had been impacted by injuries. In effect, they were giving the offensive lineman from the University of South Florida a second chance.
The Redskins selected him in with their final pick in the seventh round of the draft and kept him throughout training camp and the preseason. A week before the regular season, Reiter fell victim to "cut day," the agonizing – for players, coaches and the front office – deadline to shave down an NFL roster to 53 players.
It might have been easy for Reiter to sulk. He said he wasn't given any feedback when he left the team. Offensive line coach Bill Callahan told him a story about his time in Dallas, how he once went through seven centers in a year, and that "you never know," if only to ease the burden of his disappointment.
But Reiter wasn't discouraged on his way home to Bradenton, Fla.
"I think a lot of people think you get cut and it's kind of a negative thing," he said. "I try to always look at the positives. It was something for me to…I had to make the best out of it, so I was trying to take a hold of everything I've ever had."
Reiter worked out with a trainer at a local gym to stay in shape. The Titans, Buccaneers and Eagles called and flew him out to their facilities for workouts. But old habits die hard.
Even as he worked with other coaches on offensive line drills, Reiter continued to use everything he had learned from Callahan, along with the hand-skills he acquired from assistant strength and conditioning coach Joe Kim, to his advantage.
"They never have an issue with that," Reiter said of other coaches. "Some guys do things differently and show you how to do theirs, but for the most part I was just using [Callahan's] technique. They seemed happy."
Maybe all of that was a premonition for his return.
Check out these photos of the Redskins' offense preparing for their Week 4 match up against the Philadelphia Eagles Friday, Oct. 2, 2015, at Redskins Park in Loudoun County, Va.
Regardless, Reiter is glad to be back on a team that he's familiar with, where he knows the whole system and has a history with teammates and coaches so that he doesn't have to go through the requisite cordialities again.
Now that he's been back in Loudoun County, Va., sitting by a familiar locker and catching up with Arie Kouandjio, Brandon Scherff, Houston Bates and some of the other undrafted rookies, having an opponent to prepare for has reignited his passion for the game.
It's a way to understand Callahan as a teacher and not just as a motivator or screamer.
"When you can strategize against other teams in practice that way, everything's focused on one team," he said. "I really enjoy that aspect of it. When you get into game week, I think all that is good."
As with all practice squad members, game week and the uncertainty that can unfold in it, has real gravity. One injury can mean being activated. And while Reiter won't spend this Sunday on the FedExField sideline, he's well aware that reality could change at any time.
"I'm mentally ready to handle all of that and I have to be mentally ready to play in a game and go against everything they're trying to do," he said. "So I have to be ready for that. That's how I've approached everything."