GREEN BAY - Sean Richardson looked off into the left corner of the Green Bay Packers locker room and rubbed the last of some lotion over his hands.
The soft-spoken, 22-year-old undrafted free agent safety out of Vanderbilt played five positions for Linden High School in Alabama before suiting up all four years for the Commodores in the Southeastern Conference.
He was one of only three true freshmen to play in the fall of 2008.
It's why he had some difficulty thinking of the last time he wasn't on the field for a meaningful game.
"I never had that experience," he said. "I know my freshman year in college I didn't play as much. I played special teams. That's the closest I've ever had to missing a game."
Richardson has missed his first two NFL games as a game day inactive. Each NFL team carries a 53-man roster during the season, but only 46 can dress for kickoff. The list of players asked to walk the sidelines in team gear must be released to the public no later than 30 minutes before kickoff.
Often, the list is comprised of players who are nursing injuries, like Packers running back James Starks and defensive back Devon House, who aren't hurt enough to be put on injured reserve but shouldn't participate in a game.
If a roster is relatively healthy - a rarity even early in the season - a coaching staff may determine if a certain position needs to dress more bodies for that particular matchup.
Of the many lessons learned in a rookie season, it was one of the toughest for Richardson.
"It was kind of frustrating," he admitted. "But being the kind of person I am I like to stay positive and just continue to work hard and show these coaches that I can play and that I can help."
His time will come, however, and the Packers will count on him being ready to perform.
Defensive lineman Mike Daniels didn't dress for the season opener against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 1, but made his debut 11 days ago against the Chicago Bears. He made an immediate impact, recording a sack of Jay Cutler and making a solo tackle.
Daniels, a fourth round draft pick out of Iowa, shrugged off missing Week 1 after sitting out the first pre-season game as well. Prior to that however, he hadn't missed a game since his redshirt freshman season in 2008.
"I looked at it as an opportunity to continue to improve and work on my technique, get in a lot of scout work, working against the offensive one's, going against guys like (Jeff) Saturday and (T.J.) Lang and (Josh) Sitton," Daniels said. "I wanted to improve on my technique for the Chicago game. I took it as time to continue to perfect my craft, work on myself, and get even more healthy. I took the same approach I would any other week and that's to continue to get better."
Removed from the action against the 49ers, Daniels watched his teammates intently as well as the 49ers offensive line. Film may reveal everything on a technical level, but nothing is quite like being on the ground level as its happening.
"Sitting down there and watching a game from the sideline view, watching those guys in action, you can definitely learn a lot and take a lot from it – their approach, their mentality and the way they play it," Daniels said. "I just took that week as nothing but learning all the way up (to) and through the game."
Richardson has been doing much of the same. In defensive coordinator Dom Capers' defense, his position is vital in both run support and pass coverage – and any one mistake can be capitalized upon. So, he studies. Everything.
"It's almost like here, this is what to expect when it's your turn," Richardson said. "It's kind of a given but I look at it in a positive way like OK, I know where to be at on the sidelines, how the coaches are, how the guys relate, how they do in game changes and stuff like that. It's great to see the fans and how loud (it is). It'll be expected."
Daniels agreed, saying taking in the general game day experience of Week 1 better prepared him for action in Week 2.
The Packers won't release its seven inactive players until shortly before kickoff tonight, and Richardson may well be on the list for a third straight week. But he knows the drill, and will continue to prepare himself as if he's one play away from getting his number called.
"That's how it goes," he said. "(I'll) go out each and every day and work hard and continue to learn and continue to pick up on the vets and what they do just to make myself a better person so one day, hopefully, I can be out there."
Jim Owczarski is an award-winning sports journalist and comes to Milwaukee by way of the Chicago Sun-Times Media Network.
A three-year Wisconsin resident who has considered Milwaukee a second home for the better part of seven years, he brings to the market experience covering nearly all major and college sports.
To this point in his career, he has been awarded six national Associated Press Sports Editors awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, breaking news and projects. He is also a four-time nominee for the prestigious Peter J. Lisagor Awards for Exemplary Journalism, presented by the Chicago Headline Club, and is a two-time winner for Best Sports Story. He has also won numerous other Illinois Press Association, Illinois Associated Press and Northern Illinois Newspaper Association awards.
Jim's career started in earnest as a North Central College (Naperville, Ill.) senior in 2002 when he received a Richter Fellowship to cover the Chicago White Sox in spring training. He was hired by the Naperville Sun in 2003 and moved on to the Aurora Beacon News in 2007 before joining OnMilwaukee.com.
In that time, he has covered the events, news and personalities that make up the PGA Tour, LPGA Tour, Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Hockey League, NCAA football, baseball and men's and women's basketball as well as boxing, mixed martial arts and various U.S. Olympic teams.
Golf aficionados who venture into Illinois have also read Jim in GOLF Chicago Magazine as well as the Chicago District Golfer and Illinois Golfer magazines.