The reality of the National Football League sank in on Saturday for those players who were informed of their fate of making the roster or being released. I have been a part of releasing players, and it is a process that grates on the nerves much worse than any draft or free-agent period.
I can only imagine, as I talk to the player, it’s like talking to a mannequin. I would think it’s like getting struck in the windpipe and unable to breathe for several minutes. The pain spreads throughout your whole body while the head coach, general manager, vice president and position coach explain the process and the possible options available to the player. The player partially listens, staring at you as if he is comprehending every word you are saying, but his mind is in another orbit. Thoughts extend to high-school coaches, family, wives or girlfriends, children, and putting your house or townhome on the market in a bad economy. A portion of their lives flash in front of them, and as they slowly come back from the planet named “I Can’t Believe My Butt Just Got Cut,” they start to have a conversation and respond to the remaining questions. Shock and reality finally take hold.
The next step: They sign exiting paperwork, releasing the team from all contractual agreements, and they are sent on their way. Sounds cold-hearted, but it is, in the end, a business.
With the season opener just a few days away, all 32 teams reached the mandatory 53-man roster on Saturday afternoon. For the next three days, teams will continue to improve the back ends of their rosters, looking to upgrade at all positions or a targeted position in order to better the championship foundation.
The Rams are no different. Coach Steve Spagnuolo, executive vice president of football operations Kevin Demoff and general manager Billy Devaney will continue to better the roster, building a team that has a chance to win the NFC West. Some former Rams who were released, cleared the NFL waiver wire and immediately claimed:
* Mardy Gilyard, New York Jets (only team)
* Thad Lewis, Cleveland Browns (only team)
* George Selvie, Carolina Panthers (only team)
“Some cuts were difficult because you’ve been with guys,” Devaney said, “but every one that you make is not fun. You have young guys that have been crushed, their dreams have been shattered. Veteran guys with families involved, and wives just arriving in town and have to turn around and leave again. So everyone has its own story and none of them are easy, that’s for sure.”
There are two different paths to developing a team, and both are critical to the success of a football team and ultimately the organization. One is through the yearly draft, and the other comes via free agency. Within the process of acquiring talent, each organization has a person in charge of making the final decisions on all personnel. In some organizations, the general manager hires and fires the head coach, and gets final say over complete football operations (coaching, scouting, trainers and medical staff, player development, equipment staff, travel, etc.). Other general managers only have jurisdiction over personnel, and work with the head coach and others to give input on all personnel.
Devaney was asked specifically about the Rams’ approach to their final cuts.
“It’s like the draft process, only in reverse,” he said. “Everybody has input. Our coaches have input, our scouts have a say how they see players, Spags and I talk about it. But at the end of the day, on the 53-man roster, it’s Spags’ call.”
With six days until Michael Vick and his Philadelphia teammates roll into the Lou, the Rams can put the final touches on their game plan and focus solely on the regular-season opener. No more training camp practices or long meetings with no tangible payoff. It’s game week – for real.