The Seahawks reduced their roster to 75 players on Monday, which meant telling a lot of young men with big dreams that they were no longer a part of the team. By Saturday, 22 more players have to go when NFL teams set their 53-man rosters. For some players, getting released simply means relocating to another team that eagerly grabs them off the waiver wire, but for others, this might have been their last chance with an NFL club whether they know it yet or not.
And while it's common to hear people refer to the NFL as a cutthroat business, these decisions are very personal and very difficult for the people who have to make them.
"This is a very close team, particularly guys that have been with us before," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "It's very difficult. This is not—you know how they talk about how the league is all business and they make that like it's cold and you don't care and all that kind of stuff—that's not how this program runs."
It's highly unlikely that any coach or general manager enjoys making roster cuts, but it's particularly difficult for Carroll and the Seahawks front office because Seattle is a team that puts extra effort into getting to know a player and finding out what makes him tick. All of that personal investment isn't necessarily done for altruistic reasons as much as it is because Carroll believes he can maximize a player's potential if he knows how that player is wired—and Seattle's recent results back up this theory—but a side effect of building these relationships is that it becomes that much harder to end them.
"We dig into these guys to try to help them be the best that they can be, and in doing so you get close, you get to understand them," Carroll said. "So when these guys leave, it feels like they're Seahawks leaving, and they're going somewhere else when they do. It's an important thing to understand for everybody."
On Monday, those difficult decisions included releasing center Lemuel Jeanpierre, who has spent his entire four-year career with the Seahawks, but who lost the battle for the starting job to Drew Nowak.
"It's difficult anytime you've got to cut a player, and certainly Lem has been around and given so much to this program, but we just felt like our job is to put the best team together," offensive line coach Tom Cable said. "Patrick (Lewis) has kind of just kept being consistent the whole way through. In the end, it just came down to consistency in the backup spot."
The unfortunate reality of a 53-man roster limit is that more tough decisions are coming. Losing a job is hardest on the players who receive the bad news this weekend, but the people making those decisions don't take them lightly either.
"Everybody looks ahead, and you forget these guys," Carroll said. "For these guys, this is everything in the world to them to make this team, and we try to give it every bit of consideration in every way that we can to give them that opportunity. So when it does come up short, there's a big investment there on both ends, so it's difficult."