By Mark Gregory
As the NFL season kicks off tonight, it will do so with a familiar face as Plainfield North graduate Kapri Bibbs will be suited up in his No. 35 jersey for the defending Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos.
Bibbs has been with the Broncos for the past two seasons – but on the practice squad for all but one game. This season, he beat out veteran Ronnie Hillman and made the roster as the No. 3 running back behind CJ Anderson and Devontae Booker.
Bibbs has never had a regular season carry and that could come tonight for the 23-year-old. If you watch the game, you will see Bibbs on special teams, as his play in that area was one of the things that helped him earn the roster spot.
Bibbs is not the only local player to be employed by the NFL this season.
Former Joliet Catholic Academy product Coby Fleener will be wearing a new uniform this season and many feel will be more productive than ever.
Fleener caught 183 passes for 2,154 yards in 60 games during his four-year run with the Colts. This offseason, he signed a 5-year, $36 million contract with the New Orleans Saints – a team that has historically used the tight end a lot in the passing game.
Fleener’s old team, the Indianapolis Colts, will be the home for rookies Josh Ferguson and Antonio Morrison this season, as both made the roster.
Ferguson, a Joliet Catholic product, will serve as a reserve running back this season. The coaches, however, like his versatility and he could see some snaps – especially on passing downs.
Morrison, a Bolingbrook graduate, expects to be on the field a lot this season as a rookie. The fourth round draft choice led all NFL rookies in tackles during the preseason with 21 totals tackles – including his preseason game high of 9 tackles in Week 2 against the Baltimore Ravens.
Another local product will be on an NFL roster, but will not play for the first four games this season.
Joliet Junior College product Rob Ninkovich, who has been a staple for the Patriots defense for a long time, was recently suspended four games by the NFL after testing positive for use of a banned substance.
Ninkovich is the last professional link to the now defunct JJC football program.
A pair of former Romeoville Spartans are looking to secure a spot on NFL rosters and both share the same last name.
Former Spartan and NIU running back Cameron Stingily is on the practice squad for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Stingily, an undrafted free agent a year ago, signed with the Steelers, but was injured in his first preseason game – forcing him out of football.
Healthy and hungry, the second-year player was given another tryout this season with the Steelers and was the only one of four tryout players signed.
Stingily competed during the preseason and was signed to the Steelers’ practice squad.
Cameron’s older brother, Byron, a five-year veteran with 20 NFL starts under his belt is currently on the injured reserve list with the New York Giants.
He was competing for a swing tackle position when he suffered a concussion. Reports are when he is healthy, he will be offered an injury settlement and will be looking for a new team.
Another local player looking to land on a roster is Minooka graduate Zach Colvin.
The defensive lineman from Bowling Green was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Los Angeles Rams, but was released as the teams trimmed their rosters and is currently a free agent.