NFL lockout hits Darnell Jenkins Hard

For a practice squad wideout, Darnell Jenkins did all right in 2010. He made $125,000 -- about $37,000 more than the $88,400 that most practice squad guys around the league are making.

But the 28-year-old Patriot, who has shuffled through four different practice squads since coming out of the University of Miami in 2008, is itching to get going.

With a wife and three young daughters (soon to be 10, 9 and 4), the uncertainty he faces is far different than the players who have spent even a season or two at the end of an active roster.

Mr. Jenkins and family are not exactly well-to-do.

"It's very difficult," admitted Jenkins. "It's a good thing I'm not a big spender or anything like that. I tell my family all the time, we have to be careful here. But we put some money away . . .

"But budgeting is very important. I make my money through the season. When the season is here, the money is here. With no season, there's no income."

Players that spent 34 weeks on an active roster in 2009 and 2010 are entitled to a $60,000 stipend from the lockout fund the NFLPA set aside. The stipend for practice squad players, however, was a fraction of that. But there are programs in place to help players like Jenkins pay their bills. After a few phone calls and conversations with teammates, Jenkins got himself pointed in the right direction and was able to get some assistance to tide his family over.

"I pay for my own training and the bills, and I saved up a good amount of money to make it," he explained. "We knew we would go through this problem so I did my best to save. And I'm a homeboy. Every now and then, you'll see me out getting something to eat if my wife doesn't cook, but other than that, I'm in the house playing Xbox."

Only Patriots fans who pay attention to the preseason will remember Jenkins. He actually led the Patriots in receiving yards during the 2010 practice games, catching 6 balls for 145 yards and a score. At 5-10, 198 pounds, he's solidly built and he has excellent speed. He's a good prospect and a good man, which explains why teams remain interested in having him on their practice squads, just an injury away from real relevance.

During this offseason, Jenkins has been working out in Foxboro at the training organized by Jerod Mayo. He dutifully runs routes for backup quarterback Brian Hoyer, working at all the receiver spots because he needs to be ready if any one of them opens up.

It was a different vibe last week when about 25 more Patriots came to town to work at Boston College in workouts organized by Tom Brady.

"Brady is more of a coach to us younger guys," said Jenkins. "Brady works at a very fast pace and likes to get the feel of Wes [Welker], Deion [Branch], Julian [Edelman] and Brandon [Tate] and working a lot with them. When we did our camp with Brady, we got a feeling of what it will be like when we come back [from the lockout], but we got a lot of work done with all three quarterbacks (Brady, Hoyer and Jonathan Crompton). Our bond on this team is strong. We have positive leaders and we got a lot of great chemistry.

"I'm just waiting on the opportunity," said Jenkins. "Me getting older, it makes me just work harder. I feel I'm ready to go and can do anything the team asks me to do. I understand I have to know all the positions because I'm fighting for a spot on the team. I know physically and mentally I'm ready to step in when my number is called."

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