How does Jason Slowey know he's doing a good job these days?
"The positive feedback we get is being on the team the next week," said the former North Medford football standout, who now makes his living as a member of the Oakland Raiders' practice squad.
Though a spot on the team is never guaranteed, Slowey said he feels blessed to have a job in the NFL. His journey to this point has had some twists and turns.
Slowey, a rookie, was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in the sixth round after a successful career at NCAA Division II Western Oregon University. The 23-year-old agreed to a four-year deal worth just under $2.2 million, but he was among 12 players cut by San Francisco to trim its roster to 75 in late August.
Slowey returned to Medford before trying out for the United States Football League's Virginia Destroyers. He earned the starting center spot with the Destroyers around the same time that the Kansas City Chiefs reached out to him with an offer to compete for a position. Though the franchise in Virginia told Slowey that it would not save his spot, he and his agent agreed it was best for him to work out for Kansas City, Slowey said
Then trouble arose. The Chiefs opted not to sign Slowey. Meanwhile, the Destroyers refused to release Slowey, he said, effectively preventing him from pursuing other opportunities.
Ultimately, though, things worked out. The financially strapped UFL announced on Oct. 20 that it was ceasing operations after just four weeks of play. Slowey got a call from the Raiders and, by Oct. 23, he had signed with them.
"It wouldn't have mattered anyway," Slowey said. "No one got paid (with the UFL). It's a giant mess. In hindsight, I'm glad it worked out the way it did."
Before settling in with family in Oakland, Slowey returned to Medford to pick up his car. He was on the sidelines at the Raiders' game against Tampa Bay on Nov. 4.
With Oakland, Slowey contributes at center and guard. As a practice squad player, he received a modest signing bonus and makes around $5,700 a week before taxes. On weeks when the squad travels, Slowey and his teammates practice on Wednesday, Thursday and then again on Friday before the travelling roster leaves. The players are back at it on Monday with workouts and film study and then are off on Tuesday.
On weeks that approach home games, the practice squad's schedule is the same except that players do a walk-through on Saturday and then watch the game from the sidelines on Sunday.
Slowey and the scout-team offense run against the starting defense during portions of a typical practice. He said the Raiders are pretty healthy at the inside three positions he might play, but he's seen another practice player get promoted, which is encouraging. Running back Jeremy Stewart rose with Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson out with high ankle sprains.
"Every week it's wait-and-see if I'm still here and being thankful that I am," Slowey said. "I think I'm a little less stressed out than the first time around (with the 49ers). I'm probably enjoying it a little more now. The experience I had at camp with San Francisco, I know what to expect now."
Oakland has struggled this season. The Raiders are 3-6 overall after falling to Baltimore 55-20 on Sunday.
"Right now, we are more worried about getting the season back on track and winning some games," Slowey said. "Right now my focus is to help get those guys better and get them ready."
And Slowey is more than happy to help.
"I'm enjoying it," he said. "It's good to be employed again."
Reach reporter Dan Jones at 541-776-4499, or email firstname.lastname@example.org