GREEN BAY, Wis. – Innis Gaines had a knee to rehab and a dream to chase. He also had bills to pay.
“Besides rehabbing, I would work out and do DoorDash to make money, make ends meet,” Gaines, a first-year safety, said after the Green Bay Packers got off the practice field on Tuesday. “Because you get your own schedule, basically. You work when you want to work, so I worked out, then I’d get time to do DoorDash, do a couple hours of that and then do a couple hours in the evening and then hang out with my family and stuff; try make ends meet. So, that was perfect, really, the way you make your own hours. That was fun.”
Delivering hamburgers around the Dallas area was fun. Delivering big plays and big hits is more fun. Gaines went undrafted and unsigned in 2020 following knee injuries that ended each of his final two seasons at TCU. With COVID restrictions, he got only one workout. That was with Green Bay on his Aug. 29 – his birthday.
“They told me they liked me a lot and they said they would bring me back,” he recalled. “Obviously, a lot of teams tell you they like you, so I was like, ‘Do I keep going?’ They actually called me again, so I was happy.”
The Packers signed Gaines to a futures contract in January, meaning a spot on the offseason and an opportunity to compete for a roster spot.
He’s taken advantage of the opportunity. During the June minicamp, he broke up a deep pass to Allen Lazard. He’s continued to flash throughout the summer, with a number of splash plays in coverage in practice, a pass breakup against Houston, a pancake delivered during a special teams drill against the Jets on Thursday and six tackles against the Jets on Saturday.
That has him right in the mix for a roster spot in Green Bay’s incredibly intriguing safety group. Darnell Savage and Adrian Amos are the starters and leaders. With veteran Will Redmond missing most of training camp – he was in a walking boot at Tuesday’s practice – Henry Black has been the No. 3 safety. Gaines, former TCU teammate Vernon Scott and touted undrafted rookie Christian Uphoff all have stated their cases for a spot on the 53.
That makes the upcoming week the biggest of his football life.
With a big smile and big personality, Gaines is savoring every moment of the battle. It sure beats delivering food and rehabbing from major injuries. He tore an ACL after starting the first six games of the 2018 season, then tore the same ACL after starting the first eight games in 2019. That second injury came on Nov. 2, 2019. Nine months of recovery would have had him potentially ready in early August. But, with teams limited to only 80 players due to COVID-19 restrictions, no team was going to take a chance.
So, he continued his training and got a job with the DoorDash food delivery service
“It was difficult in the mental part, because I knew what kind of player I was,” Gaines said. “I had never had an injury bug until college, so it was lot going on at one time. My first injury was ACL. It was like, out of anything, why did it have to be an ACL, so I got back-to-back ACLs? So, it was really hard just trying to find a good mental space to be, to keep working out, kept hanging out with family to keep my mind right, keep my hopes up, keep my dreams alive. Got the call (from Green Bay), so it felt great.”
The Packers will conclude the preseason on Saturday, Aug. 28, and the cut to 53 players will take place on Tuesday, Aug. 31. In between, Gaines will celebrate his 23rd birthday on Sunday, Aug. 29. You know what he wants for his birthday.
He also wants people to not be so cheap toward the person who just delivered dinner.
“I learned that the hard way,” he said. “I’m like, ‘God, I’m going to start tipping more when I pay people.’ It sucks not getting tipped like you should be. Whenever I get a DoorDash for anything, I make sure I tip the guy good, like $5, $10, at least, because I know how it was when I was doing it. You’re hoping to get a good tip and sometimes, people don’t even tip you.”