Practice like you're going to start. You hear it ad nauseam from football players, but that doesn't make it any less true.
Tyler Sash fits that bill.
The rookie safety, who has spent most of the season on special teams, went in for the injured Kenny Phillips during Sunday's game against the Packers. He took less than 10 snaps, but they were invaluable nonetheless.
"Obviously I would have liked to play more, of course, just like anybody else would," said Sash, who didn't get much action sent his way. "But it feels good to at least know that the coaches have trust in me and that they can depend on me to go in there and make the right calls. I'm one play from going in anytime. That can happen anytime."
With Phillips (knee) out of practice again on Thursday, Sash's role has expanded in preparation for Dallas. Down to him, Antrel Rolle, and Deon Grant, Sash said he has been in "a little more than usual" and might get thrown in on a few packages depending on how the Cowboys game develops.
Sash is tied with Jacquian Williams for the lead in special teams tackles, and his success in that department may help him see the field more often.
"When it comes down to it, it's all football at the end of the day," said Sash, later adding, "The positions I play on, such as kickoff, it's a lot of read and react, kind of like playing safety. The coaches on special teams put you in positions where like a gunner on punt would be a corner on a wide receiver."
Behind three formidable veterans at his position, Sash has perfected the practice of taking mental reps. That's a skill he learned back in college at Iowa.
"My position coach was always on me because I've had two shoulder surgeries, one on each side, so I was always out in spring ball," Sash said. "He was like, 'You can still get mental reps and progress mentally.' I think that's something that helped me try to turn a negative situation when I was down with shoulder surgery. You can make strides mentally and see the mistakes others are making and mentally put yourself in position to where you need to be."
In the next locker over, fellow rookie Mark Herzlich went through a similar experience when he started in place of the injured Michael Boley a few weeks ago. Herzlich hadn't had many reps, either, but it's a little different for a linebacker, said Sash.
"Obviously it's a different position and you kind of have two guys next to you," Sash said. "There's a Sam backer and a Will backer and if you're playing Mike, you can have a little more help there in that aspect. If you're playing a safety spot, there are only two of you back there and the communication isn't from me-to-you; you're 15-20 yards from each person so you've got to use hand signals.
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