Lombardi’s Taxi Squads, 1959-61

 The taxi squad originated with Cleveland Coach Paul Brown in 1946 when he had more good players than the All America Football Conference’s roster limit of 33.Wanting to retain these players, he had team owner Mickey McBride add them to the payroll of McBride’s taxi cab company. Although not members of the Browns, they were paid by the team owner and practiced with the team. Used haphazardly throughout the league in the 1950s, the taxi squad began to be utilized more heavily in the 1960s. Then, there was no limit on the amount of players stowed on the squad, but they did add to the team’s payroll. The Packers’ Media Guide does not list taxi or practice squad players prior to 1989 when the league formalized a five-man development squad. The name was changed to Practice Squad in 1990 and the player limit was raised to eight in 2004.

 

The Packers had some taxi squadders in the 1950s, but Vince Lombardi had no members in his first season in Green Bay, although recently waived defensive back Bill Butler replaced halfback Tim Brown after the first week of the season, and former Giants’ guard Mike Falls was claimed during the season and went to training camp in 1960 with the Packers. Lombardi did assign two players to the injured list in 1959: fifth round pick Andy Cvercko, a guard, and Steve Meilinger the starting slot back in 1958.

 1959tacvercko  (Colorized 1959 Topps custom cards) 1959tsmeilinger3

In 1960, defensive tackle John Miller, whom the Pack signed after his having been cut by the Redskins, was assigned to the taxi squad, while quarterback Joe Francis was assigned to the injured list. Miller was activated in the week of November 14 for the last five games of the year, replacing defensive end Jim Temp who dislocated his shoulder.

1960tjmiller5  (1960 Topps style custom cards)  1960tjfrancis3 

Vince began to make more use of the taxi squad in 1961, carrying three men during his first championship season. Halfback Ed Sutton had played for the Redskins from 1957-1959 and the Giants in 1960; defensive back Don Ellersick had spent 1960 with the Rams; and quarterback Val Keckin was an 11th round pick of the Packers in 1961. Fifth round pick, guard Jack Novak spent the year on the injured list. None of these men were ever activated by the team, although Keckin did get to throw nine passes for the 1962 Chargers.

1961tesutton3 1961fvkeckin  1961fdellersick

1961tjnovak  (1961 Topps and Fleer style custom card; Ellersick colorized; Keckin and Sutton altered)

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