Anxious players deal with the dread of cutdown day
By Bill Coats
Of the Post-Dispatch
Monday, Aug. 30 2004
"The Turk" is lurking at Rams Park, which makes for uneasy times for players
teetering on the bubble as roster cutdowns take place.
"I couldn't sleep the last two nights, and my stomach's been turning," said
undrafted rookie Matt Morgan, an offensive tackle from Pitt. "It's been pretty
Others, such as safety Nijrell Eason, try to purge all thoughts of impending
doom. "To me, it's just like any other time," said Eason, an Arizona State
product who has played in one NFL game. "You just do whatever you can. What's
out of your hands, you can't really control."
The team has to make one more cut to reach 65 players by today's deadline. The
53-man final roster must be set by Sept. 5. Between now and then, "The Turk" -
the Rams use several members of the scouting department to do the dirty work -
will be instructing ill-fated players to report to general manager Charley
Armey's office to officially receive the bad tidings.
"It's pretty nervous about this time," said defensive end Kevin Aldridge, an
undrafted rookie from Southern Methodist. "You start number-counting, seeing
who was here last year, who was a high draft pick, how many they'll keep at
Morgan said he tries to avoid the numbers game. "I talked to a lot of the vets,
and they said you can't do that to yourself," he said. "You'll just tear
yourself apart; there's too much stress. You've got to worry about practice,
not whether you're going to be here tomorrow or not."
Surviving the first flurry of cuts is cause for some relief. But not much,
Aldridge emphasized. "You still know there's more to come," he said. "You're
not here until the final roster is set."
In the meantime, it's hard not to flinch when the telephone rings. Morgan got a
scare Saturday morning, when six players were released. He received a call, but
"they were looking for somebody else that I was hanging out with," he said. "I
(thought), 'Whew.' I wiped the sweat off my brow."
Aldridge said he keeps a close eye on his caller ID. "If the number is from
(Rams Park), then you start panicking," he said, laughing. But he also noted
that it's important not to allow the building anxiety to affect his performance
on the field.
"You have go out there and play as hard as you can, and hopefully it'll work
out," he said. "And if they don't want to keep you, maybe somebody else will
bring you in or you can hope to make the practice squad."
Running back Lamar Gordon practiced Monday for the first time since having
ankle surgery Aug. 10. Gordon participated in individual drills and even took a
couple of reps during team work.
"Talking to the trainers, it seems like he's probably close to a week ahead of
schedule. Still, we're going to be very careful with it," coach Mike Martz
said. "Any time you come back like that off of surgery, just the strength of
the ankle itself is a little different. So he's going to try to get confidence
in it over the next few days, and we'll just kind of see where he is."
No cause for concern
Martz said he wasn't concerned that linebacker Justin Smith and receiver Derek
McCoy would disclose strategy secrets to Arizona, which picked them up soon
after they were released by the Rams. The Cardinals visit the Edward Jones Dome
for the regular-season opener Sept. 12.
"One of the reasons they were cut is they couldn't figure out what we were
doing," Martz said, expressing doubt that either player could divulge much to
new Cards coach Dennis Green.
"I wish I had a tape of some of those conversations; I think they'd be very
interesting," Martz said. "They'd thoroughly confuse him. So, I think it's