NFL Roster Cuts: A Former Player Discusses the Pain of Cut Day
Right off the bat I am going to tell you that every team in the NFL signs players that will never have a chance of being on the field come game day. Teams will do this so their high dollar super stars don’t have to take as many repetitions in training camp. NFL rules allow teams to have a 53 man roster with an additional eight practice squad players. Practice squad players are either in their first year in the NFL or guys that are in the development stage as you can’t have played any credited seasons in the NFL. Most of the media before the season starts is centered on the big name players that are surly going to make the team. Those guys account for maybe 20-25 players. That leaves about 25-30 open roster positions that about 75 players are going to be fighting for. The worst part about being one of the 75 players fighting for a roster spot, is that you never know if you are going to make it to the next round or be replaced with a faster, younger, more eager player. Cut day plays out like a twisted version of American Idol. The big differences are that America doesn’t vote on the players and football comes with a considerable amount of injuries.
People have this perception that NFL players have it made in the shade once you sign a NFL contract. Don’t get me wrong, the NFL was like heaven on earth for me. Even with all the crazy things I put myself through it was the best thing that ever happened to me, but there is a price. Imagine you come into your job that you have had for the last ten years, and someone is sitting at your desk using your computer. You go straight to your boss and ask him “Who is sitting at my desk?” Your boss turns to you and says “Oh that is Larry he is your replacement, he can type a little faster than you so we won’t be needing your services any more.” This is just a little bit of the reality that NFL players go through everyday. Teams are constantly looking for someone faster, stronger and smarter to give their team a better chance at victory. No matter how big your contract is, teams will find a way out of it if they want to get rid of a player. This happens every year.
Over 80% of NFL players do not have any job stability. You literally can be on top of the world one day and be traded to another team or just flat out cut the next. And, there is no true loyalty in the NFL. The sooner you learn those realities, the better off you are as a player. At any moment you could be looking for another form of income, moving to a different state, or out for good with a fractured neck. Things like this happen every year, but they are mostly overshadowed by the big game or an awesome play. The mental stress of instability and the physical stress from the sport is way more than most people can handle. But all of this adds to the aggressive nature to the sport of football that we love. Players are constantly fighting to keep their roster spot every time they are on the football field. The big problem with all the mental and physical anguish that accompanies a NFL player is that it doesn’t just go away when you walk off the field. Every player copes with it a little differently and often you will hear about the player’s who can’t cope on the 5 o’clock news or on ESPN when we do something stupid. I can tell you all you want to know about what not to do from personal experience!
Ending a major league career of 8 years in 2008, I have many reasons to thank the NFL and more positive memories than negative. I spent my last days as an active NFL player in the locker room of the Oakland Raiders. No cameras or media just close teammates and tears, and I couldn’t have asked for anything better. Some days my mind still wants to play but my body warns me that I reached the physical limit. Most players don’t hold a press conference like a Brett Favre or Jerry Rice when they are ready to check out. And most of us just can’t decide we want to sign back up again for another round after we’ve retired. So we are left trying to figure out what the next stage of our life will be – without the sweat, blood, multiple surgeries and media attention of football but carrying along all the mental and physical baggage of a lifetime spent playing this bruising sport. But this is the life of a NFL player no matter how long your run lasts.
8 Year Veteran
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