With NFL teams having to trim their rosters from 80 to 53 players by Tuesday, 4 p.m. ET, almost 900 players will lose their jobs. Some of them will get additional chances on different rosters or practice squads, while others will see their dreams of playing in the league come to an unceremonious end.
Naturally, cutdown day is a tough one for all those involved. The New England Patriots, who will have to part ways with one third of their current 80-man roster before the deadline, are no exception.
Long-time team captain Devin McCourty, who is heading into his 13th cutdown day since joining the league, expressed those emotions on Monday.
“Throughout the building — coaches, players — we all feel that,” McCourty said. “I don’t think anybody likes this day. Even though we all know it’s coming, when you’re in the journey, you’re in the process, you’re just enjoying it. We’re enjoying when we do rookie jokes in front of the room or when we’re out there and we’re celebrating together for pushups on the line.
“All of those moments, you don’t think about this day that’s coming tomorrow. Everyone’s thinking about what it is now, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. But the realization is tomorrow’s tough. You think about guys’ families. You get to know guys, why they’re here, their journey, what they went through to be here. To just think that all just kind of comes crashing down tomorrow, it sucks.”
McCourty’s spot on the roster is safe, as are those of several other players on the team. However, the roster bubble is quite big: while at least 27 players will get moved through release, trade or being sent to an injury reserve list, a lot more than that will have to live through the anxiety of not knowing what the day will bring.
This experience is a familiar one to a significant portion of the team. Some players such as quarterback Brian Hoyer, offensive lineman James Ferentz, linebacker Harvey Langi or kicker Nick Folk have been released by the Patriots before. Others have been let go by other teams.
As Patriots head coach Bill Belichick pointed out on Monday, that is the nature of the game.
“It’s always a tough day when you have to release players,” he told WEEI on Monday morning. “You’re affecting not only the player but his family and a lot of other lives. And especially players that come in and give you all they got, do everything they can possibly do, and you ultimately have to tell them that they’re not going to be able to be on the team. But that’s reality.
“We all came into the National Football League realizing what the competition was going to be, and that’s what it is. It’s not like college. For the most part it’s alway been a very professional experience. It’s part of the profession — not an enjoyable part, but part of it.”
McCourty, who has never been released since joining the Patriots as a first-round draft pick in 2010, echoed those remarks.
“You can’t keep everyone in the locker room,” he said. “You’re looking forward to Miami, but I think you still kind of have what will come of tomorrow in your head. As an older guy, as a veteran, I’ve seen so many of these guys come in and work their butts off to give themselves a chance, and I remind guys all the time.
“I say it before the game sometimes: This league is about every time you get out there, you represent yourself to 32 teams. It’s not just the team you’re on. It’s about going out there and playing well for every other team in the league.”
As of Tuesday morning, the Patriots’ roster stood unchanged at 80 players. Including the practice squad, no more than 69 of them will still have a locker in New England by Wednesday.