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Houston Texans

Backup tackles make a lasting impression


Defensive tackle DelJuan Robinson is a big body to deal with in the trenches.

Need a temp? Need a secretary for a week? Or a file clerk or maybe a short-order cook for a few days?

Or how about a defensive lineman?

Texans tackle DelJuan Robinson and end Tim Bulman, who both spent the majority of last year on the practice squad, know what it's like to feel like you're from a temporary employment agency.

They both are playing regularly now, but both have had that feeling of being "temps." Robinson was on the practice squad all but one game last year and Bulman all but two games.

Robinson probably looks back on it with a little more levity. The cheerful 6-3, 296-pounder doesn't mind using a little self-deprecating humor.

"My nickname is 'It's Hard for a Temp,'" Robinson said with a chuckle. "It's just like an undrafted guy. You view yourself as being temporary. This game is only temporary, especially for an undrafted guy."

{QUOTE}Robinson even has the Temp nickname scribbled on his backpack. And teammates don't mind calling it out.

"I gave myself the nickname," Robinson said. "You're sitting around with guys like Mario (Wiliams) right here and Amobi (Okoye). Those are some big-money guys and some big-name guys. They were on the roster and I wasn't.

"So a guy asks me what's going on and I said I'm just trying to make the team. We were in a situation where it was do or die, so it's just hard for a temp. I've got to pay my dues. That's how it all came about."

Robinson played sparingly on defense and special teams the first three games of this season. He has started the last two games, but his approach to work hasn't changed.

"I had a temp mindset from Day 1, and I still have it now," he said. "In this league, you see guys come and you see guys go. So the bottom line is, it's hard for a temp.

"I'm playing on a defense with guys who are driving fancy cars. I've got a Chrysler. It's an '05. It's hard for a temp."

Bulman was inactive the first and third games this year. He has worked himself into the rotation the last two games, but he understands Robinson's "Temp" attitude.

"That's the best way to view it," Bulman said. "You've got to stay hungry. You've got to picture yourself as being temporary.

"I'm just trying to stay off I don't want to have to put my resume out there and hope for a job."

Robinson remembers well what it was like to be on the practice squad.

"I was just trying to get experience," Robinson said. "It was tough. You go out there and do the same things other guys do. You practice just like them, but they get to go out and play. You've got to wait on your time to come.

"I always knew I could play. It was just a matter of waiting on my opportunity and just doing whatever I could do to help this team."

Bulman has the same memories.

"It was hard just knowing you want to be out there," Bulman said. "Coach always says you've got to know your role and I agree with that. But wanting to change it is a different thing.

"That's what I always kept in the back of my mind, that I just wanted more. I wasn't going to be satisfied just showing up and getting a check. I just really wanted to play. I wanted to be out there."

The daily grind still can be difficult when you're a temp.

"You're a little isolated," Bulman said of the practice squad. "You don't travel with the team so your weekends can kind of get long and boring.

"You kind of feel like you helped them during the week so when it comes down to the game, you want to be out there bleeding with them. So there was a little feeling of separation."

Neither player ever gave up, though.

"I just knew hard work would pay off in the end," Robinson said. "But when you see people getting to play and you're not, you wonder what you're doing wrong. I knew I just had to work a little harder."

Bulman agrees.

"I've seen good things come out of just being persistent in this league," he said. "It was something I always kept in the back of my mind – to keep going, keep going. Just trusting that my hard work would pay off and I would get a shot."

Bulman says he has changed through his three-year career.

"I feel as a player I've changed every year that I've been in the league," he said. "I came in as a 300-pound nose tackle. Then I went to a three technique and now I'm playing end. So now, physically I'm different. I'm lighter at about 275 and I feel really good. I feel I have just added a whole different game."

For players like Robinson and Bulman, who were both undrafted free agents, it might seem unusual to be playing alongside No. 1 picks like Williams and Okoye.

"Things kind of even out when you get your snaps and they get their snaps," Bulman said. "Basically, you might not get as many chances being a free agent. But when you get your opportunities, you have to capitalize on them.

"This league is full of players who were undrafted. The makeup of the league is that people who can produce are the people who play. It might take some time to get there, but you can eventually make it if you keep trying."

EDITOR'S NOTE: Jim Carley is a veteran Houston sportswriter who has covered the NFL for more than 25 years. He has worked for such newspapers as the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, The Houston Post, the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner and the National Sports Daily covering such teams as the Dallas Cowboys, the Houston Oilers, the Los Angeles Rams and the Oakland Raiders.

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