Over the weekend, somewhere in the vicinity of 700 NFL players were laid off. 256 of them got hired back at much lower wages to fill out the practice squads around the league. All of these PS fellows are young guys clinging to an NFL career by their fingernails.
As for the veterans who were canned, a few will stay in shape and hope to get picked up during the season as injury replacements. The rest will go home and hang up their cleats, get wasted for awhile, then stumble reluctantly out into the Rat Race. Here’s a tip fellas: THE PARTY’S OVER!
There was a huge amount quite a bit some a hint of anxiety during the days leading up to the final roster cuts, wondering if we would have to cut somebody of significance, like Travis LaBoy or Diyral Briggs. However, when the cuts were announced and I scanned over the list, there really wasn’t anybody on it that was a significant loss.
There were two players cut that were surprises, but cutting them was the key to keeping the better players. The two players were Michael Robinson and Matt Wilhelm. It was almost a forgone conclusion the 49ers would keep both players, one for his Special Teams skills and the other to be the primary backup at inside linebacker. But neither player was particularly valuable outside of their specific roles.
Cutting both these players was a bit risky and a bit bold. Robinson had achieved almost iconic status on the team, very popular with his teammates and the epitome of the selfless team oriented guy. It should not be hard to replace his skills on the field, though.
Wilhelm is a journeyman ILB, but a handy guy to have around for spot duty. He stepped in for Takeo Spikes last year for a couple of games and held his own out there. The team is obviously so high on rookie NaVorro Bowman that they feel confident inserting him into games this year should Spikes or Patrick Willis get nicked. Still, entering the season with only one backup ILB is a bit risky.
Another key move was going with six defensive linemen, instead of seven like the team did last year. The three spots opened up by these moves enabled the team to keep both Briggs and Laboy, plus Curtis Taylor and Tramaine Brock. Taylor is a good ST player and could be a valuable backup next year when Michael Lewis exits the team, as well as possibly Dashon Goldson. Brock seems to have some CB skills worth developing. Mike Singletary kept him rather than Karl Paymah, who made the previously unnoteworthy number 41 quite noticeable during the pre-season. When you see a CB’s uniform number a lot, it means a WR has caught a ball and burned him and the cameras are doing replays of the smoke.
The team also kept CB Will James, so they must be impressed with him. We fans didn’t see much of him, though, since he missed all the pre-season games and will miss the first two games of the regular season also.
Another thought that struck me when eyeballing the list of players the 49ers cut was how meh they all were and how many of these mehmen there are scattered throughout the league. Every team has a Mike Balogun or a Khalif Mitchell lurking somewhere just off the fringes of the roster. This vast quantity of not-quite, but almost good enough player is the reservoir that teams can tap if injuries decimate any one segment of the roster during the year.
While the 49ers were setting their roster in an orderly and decisive fashion, two NFC West rivals were having last minute meltdowns. The Cardinals went into camp with Matt Leinart installed as the #1 QB and dumped him on the street Saturday in favor of a journeyman FA QB cast aside by Cleveland and two rookie QBs as backups. Whisenhunt has installed Leinart as the starting QB three times now in Arizona, and all three times Leinart has been promptly kicked aside. The first two times, Kurt Warner replaced him. That is not the case now. Oh, no. Not by a long shot.
The mayhem in Seattle, however, approached high comedy. It seemed to start last week shortly before cut down day when super O-line coach Alex Gibbs abruptly resigned, leaving a team with mix and match, young and old, O-linemen without a coach. Then the fun began as players were acquired and dumped at a dizzying pace throughout the weekend. The Seattle fans were pretty pumped for the season when Pete Carroll was hired and the team drafted well, but what they saw in the past few days was a coach throwing in the towel for this year.
Okay, we got 53 fellas ready to capture the NFC West flag. It’s curtain time. Go Niners!!!!