History will be made Sunday, Feb. 13 at SoFi Stadium between the Cincinnati Bengals and L.A. Rams.
No, this isn't a story about Super Bowl LVI being the first without a top-three seed. Or the Rams being the first team to play a championship game and Super Bowl in their home stadium.
For what is believed to be the first time in NFL history, two players who began the postseason on a different playoff team's roster will appear on a Super Bowl roster.
Let's call it the Super Bowl Double, and Bengals defensive tackles Zach Kerr and Damion Square are the faces of it.
Square, a nine-year veteran, began the postseason with the Las Vegas Raiders. He played in 20 defensive snaps in the Raiders' loss to the Bengals in the wild-card round before being scooped up by Cincinnati on Jan. 25. By virtue of his 15 defensive snaps logged in Sunday's AFC Championship Game win against the Chiefs, Square became the first player in NFL history to appear in games for two different teams in the same postseason.
Kerr, an eight-year veteran nose tackle, was activated from Arizona's practice squad on the day of the Cardinals' wild-card game against the Rams. He was inactive in the Cardinals' loss, and subsequently was nabbed by the Bengals. He played 11 snaps against the Titans and 17 snaps against the Chiefs.
The two teammates have become quick friends. They're both staying in a hotel near the team facilities and regularly grab food together. When I spoke to Kerr by phone Monday evening, he's in his hotel room watching film because 1) what else is there to do and 2) there's still plenty of catching up he can do.
"If you play long enough you know certain fronts, they just have different names," Kerr said when asked about the difficulties of coming into a new system in the middle of the playoffs. "Once you know how to get lined up that's the biggest thing. Just getting lined up. just making sure you're in the right spot. And then after that you've got to figure out OK am I staying in this spot or am I moving to another spot? And once you learn those words it's pretty much the same.
"And the stakes are higher so I'm by myself in the hotel locked in, hours on hours with nothing to do but study my playbook."
Why has it taken 56 years for a Super Bowl Double to happen? Well, it only became possible a year ago.
The COVID-19 pandemic brought new roster rules to the NFL. One of them was allowing teams the ability to elevate players from their practice squads for only the game. In the past, those elevations would have been more permanent and official signings, but this rule was put in for teams that had a surprise positive test the day of the game.
Because the player immediately reverts back to the practice squad at the conclusion of the game, they are eligible to be signed. That's what happened in both Square and Kerr's cases.
Square got his elevation and played, but Kerr was listed as inactive for the game. In fact, Kerr almost didn't see the game at all. The Bengals had placed a claim on Kerr off the Cardinals practice squad the morning of Arizona's wild-card game, and Arizona blocked the claim by doing the game-day elevation. The Cardinals wanted to hold on to Kerr's rights with the uncertainty about JJ Watt and Jordan Phillips' respective injuries.
"When you get elevated on the active roster so you can't get poached off practice squad," Kerr explains. "So obviously [the Cardinals] were confident in them winning that week. Basically, 'We'll sign him to active roster and after we win, we'll figure out what we do with him. And if we lose then he goes right back to practice squad,' which allows me to be claimed by another team for active roster."
The Bengals were in desperate need of some big guys up front after their 26-19 victory against the Raiders. Larry Ogunjobi was ultimately placed on injured reserve, Mike Daniels suffered a groin injury and Josh Tupou had already missed the game with a knee injury. So Cincy's de facto GM Duke Tobin scoured the remaining teams' practice squads and found Kerr. A week later, he picked up Square.
Offensive lineman Jared Veldheer almost became the first NFL player to play on two different playoff teams when he was elevated to the Colts' active roster for their wild card game against the Bills in 2020. Indianapolis lost, and the Packers picked him up following David Bakhtiari's season-ending injury. But Veldheer tested positive for COVID-19 that week and ultimately didn't play for the Packers in the postseason. Cornerback Tramon Williams played for the Ravens in last year's wild card round before signing with the Packers, but he was inactive for the two Green Bay playoff games.
So Square is already the first player in NFL history to play for two different playoff teams in the same postseason. And getting on the field next Sunday will make Square and Kerr the first players to ever make the Super Bowl after being on a different playoff team in the same postseason. The Super Bowl Double.
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