Saturday around the NFL was akin to to April 15th for the rest of us. Just like that dreaded tax deadline, the final cutdown day for all 32 teams is the least fun day of the year for all involved.
From the coaches' perspective, this is the part of the job they hate, when they have to tell players they have come to know and respect that they just don't fit into their plans and they need to turn in their playbook and uniform.
Many times it's a young kid fresh out of college who gave everything throughout training camp, maybe even fought through injury to try and earn a spot but there just wasn't any room at his position. Other times it's a seasoned veteran like Zach Thomas, beloved by Miami Dolphins fans young and old, who isn't ready to hang up the cleats just yet but a team like the Kansas City Chiefs couldn't find a place for his battered body, so now he has to hold out hope that there's a team out there willing to give him one more shot.
There are always surprises when teams release their final 53-man roster. Jeff Garcia, who shined in his post-49ers day with the Eagles filling in for Donovan McNabb and with the Bucs for a couple of years, was supposed to push JaMarcus Russell and maybe even beat him out for the starting quarterback job with the Oakland Raiders. Instead, he was sent packing yesterday.
And in a move that seems cold and heartless on the surface, the Bucs released kicker Matt Bryant less than a year after he gave the league one of its most emotional and dramatic moments in recent memory by kicking three field goals one day after burying his 3-month-old son to lift the Bucs to a 30-21 victory over the Green Bay Packers. Bryant was supposed to battle with Mike Nugent to try and retain his job but a hamstring injury hindered him the entire preseason and he never got a chance to state his case.
The other big news to come out of the final cutdown day was how the Eagles chose to classify Michael Vick. They used a special exemption to have him not count against the 53-man roster until his suspension expires in Week 3, so he cannot practice with the team before that time. He can do individual drills and sit in on team meetings, though, so it'll be interesting when he does become eligible how he's going to look. He's already well behind the 8-ball and missing more practice time cannot help him there.
Dolphins 10th-year quarterback Chad Pennington summed up the whole experience of cutdown day best after I asked him how he deals with seeing teammates get the boot. This was also part of my story on MiamiDolphins.com, which you can read here: http://pwr.com/k8.
"I've just gotten kind of numb to the situation over the years," Pennington said. "You take it for what it is and realize that sometimes there just things that aren't in your control. You can come out here and have a good camp but if you don't fit into the right mix you just don't fit into the right mix. That's why as a player you worry about your own performance. You control your performance and how you prepare and then you allow the coaches and the organization to make their evaluations and you can't take it personal. If you take it personal you'll get your feelings hurt all the time."
After noon today, teams were able to assign players to their practice squads and the Dolphins did just that with five of the players they cut yesterday: DE Ryan Baker, CB Will Billingsley, LB J.D. Folsom, C/G Mark Lewis and WR James Robinson.
Now every team is in regular-season mode so beginning tomorrow the practice regimen will be more formatted as will the media access. Stay tuned to the NFL Guru blog for more news, notes and opinion.
Until next time, stay thirsty my friends.