FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The confetti hadn’t quite settled on the Gillette Stadium turf Sunday night and Ross Ventrone couldn’t contain his excitement.
The New England Patriots had just beaten the Baltimore Ravens 23-20 to win the AFC championship and earn a berth in the Super Bowl, and Ventrone was hugging anyone he could grab.
Perhaps no one on this team appreciates the trip to Indianapolis more than Ventrone, a defensive back who’s currently on the practice squad.
Ventrone, you could say, has had a, well, up-and-down season with the Patriots.
Since the start of training camp, he has been involved in 21 transactions. Of those, he has been released eight times. Six times he has been re-signed to the practice squad, including the last transaction on Dec. 28.
“I mean, we’re all doing what we love to do,” said Ventrone, pulling his long brown hair into a ponytail while talking. “I mean I’m happy to have the opportunity to be in the position I am to help the team, especially this upcoming week.”
Ventrone, 25, originally came to the Patriots in 2010, an unsigned free agent out of Villanova.
He impressed Coach Bill Belichick and his staff with his hard work and became a favorite in the locker room because of his willingness to do whatever he could to help the club.
At 5-foot-8, 190 pounds, he doesn’t have the natural size to keep a spot in the NFL. He’s done that, said linebacker Rob Ninkovich, by never giving up.
“Ross is a hard-working kid,” said Ninkovich. “He goes out there and gives us a great effort on offense and defense on the practice squad. He does it all.
“I love him being on the team. Him going up and going down, I’m sure it’s a little stressful for him. But he’s been there for us all year and done a great job whenever they’ve asked him to do special teams, or scout teams, whatever.”
If the moves stress out Ventrone, he doesn’t show it.
Maybe it’s because he didn’t play football until his senior year at Chartiers Valley High in Pittsburgh.
He was a wrestler, and getting up after getting knocked around is something you learn how to do very quickly in that sport.
“I’m not going to get down,” said Ventrone, who can be followed on Twitter at the user name @RustyBenson35 (he has 11,028 followers). “I’m doing something most people would die to do.”
Ventrone appeared in eight games for the Patriots this year. He was involved in two special-teams tackles and on Dec. 24 against the Miami Dolphins, was credited with his first career defensive tackle.
Two days after that game, he was released for the eighth time by the Patriots. (At least they waited until after Christmas). Two days after that, he was signed to the practice squad, where he remains now.
The routine began in early October. Ventrone would play in a game, be released on a Tuesday and signed to the practice squad a couple of days later.
Then he would be activated for the game and the cycle would repeat.
“Obviously I want to be helping the team on the field, but I trust in everything going on here,” said Ventrone. “They’ve had as much success as anyone in the league. I trust, obviously, in Coach Belichick. He knows what he’s doing. So whatever he says, I understand what he’s doing and I’m just here to help the team with whatever I can do.”
These next 10 days, that means helping the Patriots get ready for the New York Giants. By working as hard as he can “to replicate their looks as best I can,” Ventrone feels like he will have a big role in the Super Bowl.
And that’s enough for him right now.
“I’m here, I’m happy to be here,” he said. “I feel like they feel, and I feel that I’m as much a part of this organization as anyone.
“I want to be part of the organization. To be in this position now, to be able to help them for this game is just unbelievable.”
Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at: