It's hard to even imagine how difficult this day must be for the fringe NFL player. The NFL is stocked with the best football players in the world, so it must be painful for someone to hear they simply aren't good enough to make the team. It may be the first time they've ever heard that statement in their life.
Like the league's other 31 teams, today was cut day for the Indianapolis Colts. It was time to trim the roster down to the 53 players that would start the 2009 season.
This is a no sweat day for guys like Reggie Wayne or Dwight Freeney. However, there were several bubble guys who were going to dread the decisions the Colts would make.
For some, the decision was easy. For example, poor Nick Graham should have known his name would be called after allowing a 40 yard pass play against the Lions.
For others, the choice to keep or cut would be much harder. As with every preseason, there were some surprises, both in terms of who got cut and who made the team.
So Long, Sorry to See You Go
RB - Mike Hart
Hart joined the Colts as a rookie in 2008 after a stellar career at Michigan. Hart looked as if he had some promise as a short yardage back for the Colts. A devastating kneed injury derailed his rookie campaign.
Try as he might, Hart simply couldn't get the reps he needed to impress the coaches. Chad Simpson takes his spot, in part because Simpson can also play special teams.
DE - Marcus Howard
Like Hart, Howard was a Colts rookie from 2008. Howard's rookie season was mainly spent on special teams. He did manage to log a sack and a half from limited duty in nine games. Howard looked to have some promise during this preseason, recording a sack against Detroit.
However, a miserable outing against Cincinnati in the final game proved that Howard is a one trick pony. Howard has some potential as an edge rusher, but he's a liability in the run game and can be pushed out of a play. Still, it was a shame to see him go after only a year on the team.
DB - Dante Hughes
Many people had high hopes for Hughes, a third round pick from 2007. A very productive player while at Cal, Hughes looked to be a perfect fit for the Colts cover two system. Hughes simply couldn't get a spot in the regular rotation.
He managed just one interception in his two years with the Colts. Hughes' lack of production eventually caught up to him. It's always disappointing when a relatively high draft pick gets cut so early in his career.
How on Earth Did You Make It Here?
C - Kyle DeVan
Quick, name DeVan's last team. If you said Arena Football2's Boise Burn, then you had to look it up like I did. Since joining the league in 2008, DeVan has been waived three times and spent part of his career in the professional football haven of Boise.
Now, obviously the Colts know a little something about bringing along a previously waived center (Jeff Saturday), so maybe the Colts see something in DeVan that the Redskins and Jets didn't. Or maybe, this is a testament to how thin we are at the offensive line.
K - Shane Andrus
Putting Andrus here is not a knock against him as a player. Quite the contrary. Andrus appears to have a strong leg and kicks with consistency. Why Andrus is here says more about how the Colts feel about Adam Vinatieri.
Vinatieri's first preseason kick against Cincinnati was a miss. Perhaps the Colts know that Adam Automatic isn't 100% yet. Maybe they want Andrus to be a kickoff specialist.
There is one thing that is clear, though. If Vinatieri was 100%, Andrus would not be here. The roster spot would have gone to another position. A second kicker is a luxury in this league.
LB - Tyjuan Hagler
Like Hughes, Hagler has been a bit of a disappointment. It's hard to believe that the oft-injured Hagler was drafted back in 2005. Unlike Hughes, though, Hagler has shown a few flashes of potential. It's just that those flashes have been few and far between.
The Colts seemed to bring in some linebackers to try to challenge Hagler this preseason. They are gone and Hagler is still here. Maybe 2009 will be Hagler's break out season, but his history doesn't support that.
So Glad You Made It
QB - Curtis Painter
The Colts did indeed keep three quarterbacks. While there's no question that Painter will have to work on his mechanics, the rookie from Purdue showed poise and scrambling ability while working with second and third string linemen.
It'll be years, hopefully, before Indianapolis has to begin life without Peyton Manning, and that gives Painter plenty of time to learn a lot about playing quarterback in the NFL.
DB - Jacob Lacey
The Colts may have a new fan favorite. In fact, the Colts seem to collect defensive backs that the crowd just loves to cheer for. Melvin Bullit and Matt Giordano are two high energy players capable of being productive when called upon.
Lacey earned his roster spot this preseason. He led the team with eight passes defensed (no one else had more than two) showed he had a nose for the ball. He was one of the only bright spots in the miserable preseason finale at Cincinnati.
GM Bill Polian seems to have a knack for finding a undrafted free agent that can produce now and then (Dominic Rhodes is a great example). Lacey appears to be the rookie free agent of 2009. It's nice to see an undrafted guy make the team, especially when he's earned it with his performance.
Next up on Monday, grading the Colts' 53 man roster.