NFL Cut Day – Bring Your Playbook!
As Tough as it is… Remember the Lessons
NFL Cut Day hits differently when they call you into the office and ask you to “bring your playbook” with you. It’s definitely a wake up call to say the least!
You already know that they are not calling you in for a meeting to review plays and go over certain reads, the call is to let you know that today is the last day that you will be on their team.
We’ve seen footage of coaches aka “The Turk” whom are tasked to make those dreaded but team necessary calls to trim the roster and get ready for the season. We have heard those coaches share their anxiety of having to tell a young man that today, the dream of playing on a NFL team is over. I can only imagine how tough is to make the call and I know it’s not for the faint of heart.
The teams, the media outlets, the players families and friends all over the world, know that this “Cut Day” is coming and there will be plenty of out of work ballplayers hitting the streets. Just as tough as it is for “The Turks” to make the call, just imagine how it must feel to be on the other end of that phone call and hear the news that at that particular moment, your playing days are over!
4 Different Player Experiences
Depending on the circumstances, the emotional roller coaster that these football players are going through are all over the place. Here are a few details of what the players are going through during this time.
- There is no need to worry for those early round draft picks, most vets and game-changers, because they are pretty confident that they will be on the team and not be affected too much on this day. Yes they may be surprised that a couple of guys that put in some good work was cut, however for the most part, they start honing in on their own game and being ready for the start of the season.
- There will be a few selected players staying put in their hotel rooms because the coaches want to add them to their team’s practice squad and later on they could possibly be signed on and added to the active roster. However the wait and uncertainty of getting the call or not can be nerve wracking and cause you to walk on egg shells for a few days.
- There will be a number of players leaving town headed to a different city for another chance to get picked up by a team. They may be a little down or downright shocked from the news of getting cut however the excitement of knowing that another team is interested, gives you plenty to think about on your flight to that team.
- Then there are those players who are headed back home. In general home is a place, where before today, was a location of security and comfort. Today that place called home is now a location of insecurity and uncertainty and it’s really the last place you rather be. The insecurity is felt because you’ve been involved with a game for so long and your identity is tied to it in many ways. The uncertainty feeling hits you hard because you don’t know what’s next on the journey and at a moment’s notice you now feel all alone.
For the players that make up those last 3 experiences, let me tell you, they have so many questions and very few answers.
What am I going to do now and so forth?
Do I keep working out and have my agent call teams?
Maybe I’ll line up something to go play in Canada or just wait it out?
Well I have my degree, so it is time now to start another career?
Do I go back to school and finish my degree?
This is the time where you really see the business side of the everything and as much as you may love the game, the game doesn’t quite love you back in the same way.
This can really be a tough time for these young ball players and it’s definitely a much needed time for prayer and support. As confident and as strong as these athletes may seem to be, when something hits you that hard and fast, it can be depressing and traumatizing to say the least.
How do I know?
I, like so many guys that have experience “Cut Day”, have been that player in those 3 examples I shared earlier in my post. To take it one step further, even when you get on a team and have a chance of getting activated to play, then suffer from 2 devastating injuries all within a year’s time to end your career can be a very depressing experience. However that’s another post for another time.
As a free agent coming out of College, I was in training camp and made it to the last cut and then I received the call saying, “Bring Your Playbook!” I went home for a couple of weeks, worked out twice a day to keep the dream alive in my mind, then I received a call asking me to come back in for the remainder of the season. Oh what a feeling of excitement, relief and motivation it was for my family and I. We celebrated some however we all knew it was time to get back to work and work even harder than before.
Going into season 2 and now I am learning the game on a higher level and getting in position for bigger things to happen. Then BAM @%&!&!! injury #1 happened. As much as they want to keep me around for awhile to see if my leg will get better, the business of the game steps in and now it’s time for me to go.
Game over huh?
Not quite, especially after receiving another call a few months later from a Coach asking me to pack your bags we need your services. This time it’s a different league, different city but the same ole game of football being played! Three months after the season started, it all came crashing down again, this time for good after injury #2. There was no coming back to play from this injury and of course I found myself with those questions I posed earlier and with very few answers to choose from. With much prayer and support from my circle of family and friends, it didn’t take long to find my way.
Young man, whatever happens after today, guess what… the best is yet to come! You may get picked up by another team and who knows, you may wind up playing for a long time however one thing is for certain, life goes on. Father time is undefeated and whether you play one season, 10+ seasons and/or end up with a Hall of Fame career, the time will come for you to hang up those cleats and for many players it’s not the way you want it to end.
You’ve probably have heard the phrase of falling back on your education well I like to use the term falling forward on your education. The timing may not be right in hearing this however it’s true. Whether you made the team or you receive the call to bring in your playbook, you have to believe that you are More than an Athlete!
You now will have to trust that your education, the prayers and life lessons you have received leading up to now, is what will allow you to bounce back and show not only the naysayers, but yourself, that you will succeed no matter what.
I recently took a photo of all the organized football teams I played for from Middle School to the Pros and I was quite surprised to learn that the actual time period was right at 13 years. When you look at the Big picture, that’s a very small window of time doing something you come to learn, love and grow into, like the game of football.
It’s been 29 years since I last played the game and even though I didn’t end my career the way I envisioned it to end, I am blessed by God to still be able to dream, work and accomplish those dreams by using the lessons learned from the game, from the classroom and the lessons I continue to learn on a daily basis, to really enjoy life after the game.
The game teaches you how to dream, how to battle and fight. You learn discipline and structure, character and perseverance and on a day like Cut Day when you receive that call for you to bring your playbook, you tend to forget all of those lessons and can fall into a “Woe is Me” mindset.
Today is not the time to forget, this is the time to remember! This is the time to recall those lessons and get ready to use them because, trust me, you will need every one of them to push past this brief but very challenging moment in time for you. Deep down only you can decide if you want to work, make the calls and keep the dream alive.
Whichever road you choose, remember that, You are More than an Athlete and God Willing, you have what it takes to succeed in whatever you put your mind to. Give it all you have, learn the lessons and implement them when the time come.
Live Full, Die Empty!
P. Jackson “The Action Online”
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Photo Image courtesy of Pro Football Network.com (I do not own the rights to the NFL Roster Cuts Today Image)