NFL Career Over Before It Begins

This is the time of the year when there is much angst and paranoia for 22 of the remaining players (rookie and veteran) on NFL rosters as Week 4 of the NFL preseason begins on Thursday night.  On Sunday September 5, NFL rosters must be pared down to 53 players. (On September 6, teams may add an additional eight players to form their practice squad rosters.) There are many players who have told their friends and family they will be starting this week on the special teams unit or will have significant playing time this week with one last chance to shine and make the roster.  Unfortunately, that perception is often not a reality. Many already have no chance of making the final roster no matter how well or poorly they perform on Thursday and Friday night.  There is an old notion known amongst veteran players, personnel and coaches, Week 4 of the NFL preseason is treated as if it is a “bye” week and you do what you can to have the players who are going to be contributing over the course of the next 17 weeks to get some rest after the grueling training camp and preseason schedule.

I once consulted for a young sports agent who was representing a few free agent players who made it through Week 3 on the NFL preseason. He was excited in telling me that his players had a great chance in Week 4 to make the final roster, because a couple of them would be starting on the special teams units.

I cringed as he told me that assessment of his players, because I “knew” what that kind of opportunity really meant from having worked in the front-office.  Usually, players who start on special teams in Week 4 are not likely to be players who are high on the list to make the final team roster. The best thing a player can do is play the best he can with the time he is given to perform on the field in hopes that he leaves a favorable impression on his current team and with enough of a presence that the other 31 teams I the NFL may see him as a better prospect then something they already have. 

I don’t say this to be a “hater” or “nay-sayer”, but merely letting those who have their hopes overinflated, brought back to reality. The one thing I always did when players came to me behind closed doors for those one-on-one conversations, was tell them the truth. They may not have liked what I had to say at the time, but later on, they actually respected the fact that I told them the truth. To this day, there are numerous players whom I have the displeasure of informing that there service will no longer be needed with the team, and have actually smiled, walked up to me, and given me the man hug (you know the one-handed grip with the chest-bump and slap on the back) when speaking to me on our next encounter. No too long after there departure, they saw and eventually realized that I was one of the few “front-office” types who “kept it real”. 

Many of these same players whom I tapped on the shoulder and told the unfortunate news of, “Coach wants to see you and also bring your playbook”, have gravitated back to me in their post career lives after now realizing that the people around them and in their lives at that time were not necessarily ones they could trust (outside of immediate family), and I have an intrinsic value that they wish they would have latched on to in the beginning of their careers.

So as you watch the final week of preseason games in the NFL, just know that there are 22 players who will have a lot of playing time over the next few days, but may be playing the last precious moments of their NFL career before it even begins.

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