Another candid look from a former player now blogger..
CHAD BROWN ON GETTING CUT
Posted by Mike Florio on September 8, 2008, 11:11 a.m. EDT
[Editors note: NFL veteran Chad Brown, a three-time Pro Bowler who played 15 seasons for the Steelers, Seahawks, and Patriors, offers up his own experiences on what its like to be released by an NFL team.]
At the Patriots team facility there is one entrance for players. Just inside, theres a small group of chairs and side tables. Almost every day during training camp, a scouting assistant sits in one of those chairs.
That scouting assistants job is to wait there and grab whatever player V.P. of player personnel Scott Pioli or coach Bill Belichick wants to talk to.
Most of the time the meeting that takes place is about that players release. Almost every team in the league has a similar setup. For 13 years, I walked past that guy almost without a second thought. Sometimes, I wondered who was getting the bad news that day. But, most of the time, I just headed into the locker room and started to get ready for my day.
As I went forward in football from Pop Warner to high school to college then into the NFL, I sometimes thought about the guys who didnt make the next step in football with me. Football is so different than other sports in the respect that, your last play is really your last play. The last time you strap on the pads is the last time you strap on those pads for the rest of your life.
Any ex-high school basketball player can hit the local YMCA and, even at 50 years old, he can get a game. I play in a rec softball league, and most teams have one or two ex-minor league or college players who love to hear the crack of the bat (or run over Bette Midler at home plate). Football is different because there arent rec leagues or pick up games at the park. Once youre done, you are done. FOREVER! I often wondered about my high school friends who loved the game just as I did. Did they know after that last game that that was it for them? Did they have any idea that they would never play again? If they had realized it, would they have done something different? Played harder? Lifted more weights? Taken in a little more of the sights, the lights, the smells, the glory and privilege of playing this game?
One day, as I walked in the door that day, I could see the scout looking at me. Then I see him getting up out of his chair to talk to me! Oh sh*t! Im still trying to process my thoughts when he says, Chad, Scott and Bill need to see you.
Huh? I say.
Scott and Bill need to see you upstairs in Scotts office.
Wow, I thought, he was waiting for me. For 13 years I walked past this guy, and now its my turn.
Uh, OK, I mumble and head upstairs. (Well, actually, I took the elevator. At the Patriots facility, only Mr. Kraft uses the elevator. I thought, if Im getting cut, damnit, Im not taking the stairs. Thats right, Mr. Kraft, I took your elevator!)
Sit down, Chad, Scott says. Im still thinking this cant be real, can it? From All Pro teams and Pro Bowls and team MVPs to this?
We need to release you, Bill said in a very calm voice. I really dont remember much of what was said after that. You sit and listen, then you walk out and wonder what just happened, and what do I do next? Ive seen guys after being released head down to clean out their lockers and walk out with all their stuff in, get this, a garbage bag. I never understood how that felt before. Well, now I know. You feel like the stuff in that green bag. Very unwanted. Very disposable.
As a top-level player for most of my career, I never understood how the other side lived. After being cut, I felt their pain. You wonder if you will get the chance to play again. Was that preseason game my last one? Was that missed tackle my last play? Will I strap the pads on again? Before the cut my love of the game was selfish. It was based on how well I played, not on how well my team played; Ive walked out of the locker room after a 35-7 win pissed because I didnt get a sack or I didnt have 10 tackles.
Getting cut will snap you out of that real quick. After being cut youre just happy to have a job.
Getting cut also reminds you of just how special the game is. What an awesome privilege it is to play the great game of football. To have the chance to make 65,000 fans jump out of their seats, to hear the roar of the crowd after a big play, or to see fans wearing your jersey. Somehow getting cut makes all that even more special. Its too bad that you cant have the perspective when you are a young player, so you could really savor each moment of the great game of football.
I think only after getting cut and having your football life flash in front of your eyes do you really understand how lucky you were to play this great game of football, the amazing American pastime, at its highest level.