DeCicco gets one more shot to chase NFL dream
All Dom DeCicco wanted was a chance.
If one chance meant a last chance, then he was just fine with that.
But reserve linebackers and special teams contributors are a dime a dozen in the NFL. Reserve linebackers and special teams contributors coming off a pair of sports hernia surgeries within a span of 10 months are virtually non-existent.
So when DeCicco — a Thomas Jefferson and Pitt graduate — sat out of football after being released by Tampa Bay following training camp last year and didn't get much interested this offseason, he was quite sure his NFL days were over.
“I pretty much had in the back of my head that I wasn't going to get another chance,” DeCicco said. “I all but thought it was over for me.”
DeCicco was wrong.
The Minnesota Vikings were impressed enough with DeCicco during a three-day tryout last month during rookie minicamp to sign him — a practice that is rarely done in the NFL — and give the 25-year-old the one more chance he wanted.
“My agent told me that they usually don't sign people, but just go and show them what you can do,” DeCicco said. “I've had all these injuries and I just felt like I wanted one more shot. For me, I just wanted to try one more time but the question was if I was going to get that opportunity or not.”
DeCicco said it was a humbling experience taking part in a rookie minicamp despite being in the league for three years and playing in 20 games, but he was grateful for the chance.
“I was there with predominately all rookies so it was humbling,” DeCicco said. “But I now realize how hard it is to come by a roster spot. When you first get in the league, you don't realize how tough it is to get in this league and stay in this league.”
DeCicco looked like he was on the fast track of being a productive NFL player when he was signed by the Chicago Bears as an undrafted free agent during the lockout year of 2011.
A hybrid safety/linebacker at Pitt, DeCicco wasn't ready to play linebacker in the NFL, but became an instant special-teams standout.
DeCicco finished his rookie season with 17 special-teams tackles and was making strides at linebacker the following year in training camp before re-injuring his groin in the preseason opener against Denver that he originally hurt during the spring.
Three weeks later and after seeing a specialist in Philadelphia, DeCicco's injury was diagnosed as a sports hernia. DeCicco was released with an injury settlement not long after.
DeCicco returned to the Bears three months later before being diagnosed with another sports hernia during the spring. He was released again.
“It was tough because I wasn't healthy,” DeCicco said.
Seven weeks removed from his second sports hernia surgery, he signed with Tampa Bay, but wasn't healthy and was cut a month later.
“I thought I was healthy,” DeCicco said. “But when you practice in that heat, play in that heat and with (Greg) Schiano, we had some pretty tough practices. After the second or third practice, my leg was all black and blue. It was a struggle.”
DeCicco is now healthy and has a shot to catch on with the Vikings and new coach Mike Zimmer. DeCicco has been playing mostly strong side outside linebacker during organized team activities, but he also has worked on the weak side and in the middle.
“There are a lot of good players here, but there is definitely an opportunity,” DeCicco said. “I really have to excel in camp at special teams and show that I can play linebacker as well.”
And if he can't, he'll move on.
“I think I will have a good gauge if it is time to move on depending what happens in camp and the preseason,” DeCicco said.