It's cut down time in the NFL. Today, no later than 4:00 p.m. New York time (EDT), all 32 NFL Teams must reduce their rosters to a maximum of 75 players on the Active List. Throughout the League, 160 playbooks will be returned and lockers will be emptied as the "Turk" makes his annual visit. No, I'm not talking about the Famous Eighteenth-Century Chess Playing Machine. The Turk I refer to is the individual assigned by the organization to go to a player's room, knock on his door and utter those dreaded words: "The coach wants to see you--and bring your playbook." In short, the Turk is the NFL version of the Grim Reaper.
This first cut is meaningful because the players a team wants to sign to its practice squad are usually among these first cuts. If you already have determined that a player will not make your active roster but is a good candidate for the practice squad, you don't want him around for the last week of camp because you don't want to showcase him to other teams. By cutting a potential practice-squad player at this point, you are trying to hide the player while hoping another team does not add him to its active roster. Not only that, but making the moves between the third pre-season game and the next practice prevents affected players from suffering injuries while still on the roster, in which case the team could be responsible for all or part of the players' salaries.
A minor injury, even for a few days, might cost a player a spot on the regular season roster.
"Bubble" or fringe players, will have to avoid the Turk for another week. 22 more players on each team, for a total of 864 men, will be subject to the unemployment line by 6:00 PM EDT on September 4th. However, there remains a margin of hope for a few of them. There will be 256 openings for the Practice Squads after the final cuts. Some may resurface on new teams, and still others may pursue their dream in a different league.
Players who are cut pack their belongings in garbage bags and head home to wait for a phone call from their Agent telling them they have another chance.
Former Chicago Bears kicker Robbie Gould was cut by the Patriots during the 2005 preseason and eventually was picked up in Chicago.
"You hope you have enough game film to show teams you can play, either on their practice squad or even on their 53 man roster. You work out, you do the same things you do when you were there. You keep yourself in the best possible shape so you are ready to go if you get called."
So players who are cut need not despair after packing their belongings in garbage bags and heading home. In most cases, these players would be best advised to keep plugging away.
The process is not easy for the coach either. Players bust their butt to do everything they can do to make a position for themselves, and anyone would find it difficult to send a hard worker down the road. NFL coaches typically call cutdown day the worst day of the season.
"It’s tough," said former Chiefs and Jets coach Herm Edwards. "It’s really tough when you have to cut the veteran guy who has been in the league nine or 10 years. You’d like to cut those guys early because the likelihood of them getting picked up is greater. When you cut one of those guys late, it’s tough for them unless injuries happen."
Josh McDaniels has shown that consideration to players. One recent example is Kolby Smith. He was waived on August 4th and got picked up by the Jacksonville Jaguars last week.
Players who could "Meet the Turk" today that are Practice Squad eligible:
Nathan Overbay - He hasn't seen much action lately and when he has, didn't draw much notice. With the acquisition of Kory Sperry, Overbay's days as a Bronco are likely coming to a close.
Riar Geer - Fits the bill as a player the Broncos might want to stash away. Riar has seen time at the Fullback spot as well as making a few receptions during pre-season.
Kevin Alexander, Jammie Kirlew and Worrell Williams - They may get another week to make the squad, but there are many Linebackers to weed through.
Kyle McCarthy - He is in a tough position. The Defensive Back position is loaded with depth and versatility. Kyle will most likely be a victim of the numbers game since the Safety position and the backups are pretty much set in stone.
Cassius Vaughn and Syd'Quan Thompson - These two speedsters have made noise in the Return Game and have a legitimate shot to win spots on the final roster. Thompson has the edge between the two, but they could both fall victim to the Turk too.
Alric Arnett and Britt Davis - These two players will definitely be cut. The Bronco receiving corps are just too deep and appear to be one of the strengths on the team this year.
Bruce Hall - Should be among the cuts but may last the week due to the injuries at Running Back and considering Justin Fargas was cut yesterday.
Paul Duncan and Eric Olsen - Could be another two players the Broncos try to hide.
Jeff Stehle - The 6' 6" 310 lb. Defensive End is behind a rather large rotation. It's always a good idea to have options on the line though.
The best part for us fans, is that the depth of talent this year will make the Broncos coaching staff make some hard choices. Some of the players that get tapped by the Turk will end up playing on another team in the league.
There are less than two weeks until opening day.