On Tuesday, one of the busiest days across the world of professional football took place, as NFL teams finalized their initial 53-man rosters. Dan Whelan, the former DC Defenders punter who went on to sign with the Green Bay Packers, was the only XFL 2023 player to immediately land on an active roster. While many players were forced to say goodbye, others were given a second chance through practice squads, which were put together a day later.
A total of 17 XFL players from this past season joined practice squads, including four from the Houston Roughnecks. Without further ado, let’s take a look at some Roughnecks who have continued to advance at the next level.
CJ Brewer, DL, Coastal Carolina: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
CJ Brewer signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on May 15th, and while it was always going to be an uphill battle for the second-year pro, he stayed with the team throughout the entire offseason process. He logged two solo tackles in preseason action, and will look to be elevated to the active roster once the regular season kicks off. Brewer spent the 2022 season with the Buffalo Bills, where he ultimately appeared in two games.
Jack Heflin, DL, Iowa: New Orleans Saints
Similar to CJ Brewer, Jack Heflin had a relatively quiet preseason, especially with teammate and former Seattle Sea Dragon Niko Lalos taking up much of the spotlight. He recorded 3 total tackles (1 solo), and will try to stick around with his third NFL team. Previously, Heflin signed with the Green Bay Packers as an undrafted free agent in 2021, and was later on the New York Giants’ practice squad.
Jontre Kirklin, WR, LSU: New Orleans Saints
The Saints have not one, but two former Roughnecks players on their practice squad. Wide receiver Jontre Kirklin was one of the XFL’s brightest stars in 2023, but had his season cut short due to injury. Fortunately, he was able to make a full recovery and get an opportunity in the NFL. Kirklin caught 9 passes for 127 yards during the preseason, in addition to 5 kick returns for 119 yards. It was an impressive string of games for the 24-year-old, who also shined in preseason action with the Arizona Cardinals last year. Now, the Louisiana native has a chance to stay close to home and perfect his craft.
Michael Bandy, WR, San Diego: Denver Broncos
For a while, it looked like Michael Bandy had a relatively clear path to making the 53-man roster, given his previous experience with the Los Angeles Chargers and the Broncos’ lack of depth at the receiver position. Although he will be inactive for now, there’s a good chance Bandy will see the field this season, perhaps more than any other player listed. His tenure with the Roughnecks was quite brief, but the midseason addition still sparked some interest. Bandy’s return to the NFL was expected, and he will now begin his third year in the league after catching 5 passes for 40 yards in the preseason.
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