The Cincinnati Bengals signed cornerback Tony McRae off the practice squad Saturday, then gave him his first career snaps on defense Sunday in a loss to the Chicago Bears.
For the 24-year-old from North Carolina A&T, it’s been a long, winding road to get onto the field.
McRae originally signed with the Bengals last year as an undrafted college free agent but spent the 2016 season bouncing on and off the practice squad. When Cincinnati waived him again with final roster cuts this fall, Baltimore picked him up and used him on special teams in four games before releasing him Oct. 21. Buffalo acquired him and released him two days later, paving McRae’s way back to Cincinnati for another stint on the practice squad.
Injuries to the Bengals’ secondary forced the 5-foot-9 M
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McRae onto the 53-man roster, and he appeared in Sunday’ game for five snaps on defense.
McRae talked about his Bengals debut and what got him to this point in this week’s Bengals High 5:
Q: How did you feel about the opportunity to finally play on defense, especially given how deep the competition in the secondary has been before recent injuries and your time on and off the practice squad?
A: It was late game, but as long as I got some snaps, it felt pretty good. It’s tough to earn time. We’ve got a competitive group, so I just kept working and eventually it worked out for me. I just need to continue to play with energy and don’t make mental mistakes and I think I’ll be fine.
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Q: You were recruited to North Carolina A&T as a tailback. How did you end up at cornerback and how did you feel about the change?
A: The college I went to was doing pretty bad in the secondary. One of our guys went down, and they knew I could play, so they just moved me over and I ended up staying. Football is just a feel and you’ll know, so it wasn’t too hard to make the switch.
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Q: Did you already have good hands or was that something you had to really work on? You ended up with five interceptions as a junior.
A: No, I had good feet. I caught all the bad balls, the tipped balls that were easy to catch. I knocked a lot of balls down, so they didn’t throw my way as a senior, but I really didn’t have good hands. I’m getting better at it. I was kind of raw in college, but now I’m really learning the position.
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Q: Being on the shorter side, do you feel you have to play bigger than your size?
A: Yeah, I’ve got to go out and play against some of the biggest guys I’ve seen, so I have to be just as physical as them, if not more physical.
Q: Did you have older brothers that helped you become more physical when you were younger?
A: I had an older cousin that was real tough on me growing up, so I’ve been playing with older guys and it’s nothing new. It’s more of a pride thing than being physical. You just don’t want nobody making you feel like you’re small and they can take advantage.
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