Sunday, March 25, 2012

Might FB Tonga get the call from practice squad? October 6, 2011, 3:01 pm

Manase Tonga went to high school in San Mateo and spent four years at BYU before signing with the Raiders as an undrafted free agent last summer. (AP)
With Marcel Reece still gimpy with an ankle injury and rookie Richard Gordon nursing a broken hand, the NFL's top rushing team is suddenly woefully thin at fullback.

The knee-jerk reaction? Scan the Raiders' practice squad and size up fullback Manase Tonga, a 5-foot-11, 245-pound battering ram from BYU. Might he get the call and be activated for Sunday's game at Houston?

"I've been getting some reps today so hopefully we get some good news," Tonga told reporters Thursday following practice. "I haven't heard anything yet but I'll make sure I'm ready, just in case.

"Today I took the majority of the reps (at fullback). Mostly it was just so I can brush up on what we had installed yesterday or this morning. Some of it was review stuff, just making sure I know my assignments. I took the majority of the reps today and feel pretty good about it."

After playing four years at BYU, the former San Mateo Aragon High School star signed with the Raiders as an undrafted free agent last summer and spent the season on the practice squad.

"Oh, man, it's been a while," Tonga said of the last time he played in an actual game. "It's been a year and some change now ... whenever that day comes, I'll make sure that first person is going to feel it."

Still, coach Hue Jackson mentioned veteran Rock Cartwright as a potential replacement at fullback, even as Cartwright said he has never played the position in practice.

Such is the life of a practice squad player, a guy who takes just as many hits during the week but cannot play on Sunday. And then the bittersweet opportunity might come when a teammate (or two) is injured.

"It's part of the business; it sucks," Tonga said. "It's unfortunate, the injury situation, but at the same time we're all here to play. I want to get my chance. However it comes, I'll take it. I do hope these guys will get better."

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