GREEN BAY, Wis. – After Thursday’s practice, Green Bay Packers tight end Dominique Dafney entertained reporters for 11 1/2 minutes.
Little did reporters know that Dafney had suffered a hip injury at practice so significant that he was ruled out of Sunday’s game at San Francisco on Friday and placed on injured reserve on Saturday. He’ll miss at least the upcoming games against the 49ers, Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns.
No corresponding roster move was made. The return of Josiah Deguara, who was out last week with a concussion, should mean minimal changes schematically.
Dafney went from a bouncer to bouncing defenders out of his way. He lined up here, there and everywhere the first two games, with his 48 snaps coming as a traditional tight end (22 snaps), fullback (14), slot receiver (nine) and receiver (three), according to PFF.
“Being that I’m not 6-6 or whatever the ideal measurements of a tight end are, I don’t run a 4.3 so I’m not a receiver, but the fact that I block well, run routes, can do all these things, I figure, ‘OK, I’m going to have to use that [versatility] in order to get where I want to be,’” Dafney said. “I’m going to have to play special teams. I’m going to have to block D-ends, linebackers, safeties. I’ve done it all before so I’m just going to have to use everything I’ve been able to do in my past and put it all together in order to get to where I want to go.”
Dafney was quite a story last season. He started his career at Iowa Western Community College in 2016 and played special teams at Iowa in 2017 and 2018 before finishing his career at Indiana State in 2019.
His senior year was sputtering along until he was moved from receiver to wildcat quarterback late in the season. In his final collegiate game, he rushed for 244 yards and scored five touchdowns against Missouri State. That’s 29 more yards than his combined receiving yardage total from his two seasons at Iowa and the one season at Indiana State.
Unproductive small-school receivers don’t get much love from scouts. Not surprisingly, Dafney went undrafted and unsigned. He did join the Indianapolis Colts late in training camp but didn’t make the roster and wasn’t signed to the practice squad.
To make a few bucks while continuing to pursue his NFL dreams, he got a job as a bouncer at 300 Craft & Rooftop, a bar in Des Moines.
The Packers signed him to the practice squad on Oct. 12. Season-ending knee injuries to Josiah Deguara and John Lovett got Dafney on the roster, and a concussion for Jace Sternberger gave Dafney a role he wouldn’t relinquish. Over the final four games, he played 64 snaps and caught a touchdown pass at Chicago.
In training camp this summer, Dafney outplayed Sternberger to retain his spot on the roster. The Packers released Sternberger, a third-round pick in 2019, on Tuesday.
“He’s done a lot of good things for us, man,” receiver Davante Adams said on Wednesday. “He’s somebody that can, we can rely on him, like you said, to go and block what would usually be a mismatch size-wise. He packs a punch. I call him Charles Barkley because he’s kind of built like him a little bit, like a thicker guy but he’s kind of compact.”
Dafney smiled at the comparison.
“He was the league MVP, great player, Hall of Famer” he said. “Definitely played with some tenacity. Obviously, we all love him today because he is who he is but, as a player, he was a dog. Definitely got after people. So, of course, I’ll definitely take that.”