Packers prepare to cut roster to 75

Kelly Hodgson, Packers contributor

Photo: Image by TODAY'S TMJ4

Packers prepare to cut roster to 75

CREATED Aug. 22, 2013

Players are signed to the Green Bay Packers' 90-man training camp for various reasons.

Of course there are undisputed starters, the anchors that hold the team together like an Aaron Rodgers, Clay Matthews, B.J. Raji or Jordy Nelson.

Their roles were determined long before camp opened at the end of July at St. Norbert College.

If the team were chess pieces, Rodgers would be the king surrounded by his trusted court of royalty and bishops. The pieces are indispensable, a crippling blow if any of them were to go down.

Others are guaranteed locks though they don’t see much time on the field. Those players have a specific niche and are often silent unsung but crucial links in the chain such as long snapper Brett Goode, punter Tim Masthay or Jarrett Bush on special teams.

Each contribution may be small, but their impact pivotal. They are the knights and the rooks—you know, that funny castle thing in the corners.

Some of those players that will get this invitation in the next few days would have never imagined being at risk for being cut last year.

After Wednesday’s lackluster performance in practice where he missed 3 of 4 kicks in a drill, Mason Crosby’s position is still hardly a lock.

In fact, general manager Ted Thompson has yet to give a ringing endorsement for either kicker in camp. On Tuesday he said that he “never stops looking” for a kicker to meet the team’s needs.

There’s a possibility neither current kicker will be given a stay of execution this summer.

Meanwhile others such as Johnny Jolly — once viewed as an extreme longshot to once again join the team — and Micah Hyde have used every opportunity  to prove they deserve to be among those on the final roster.

Jolly knocked one pass down and intercepted another in preseason game in St. Louis. But Jolly didn’t stop there.  

He continued to attack the offense as though he had not missed three seasons chasing personal demons.

Hyde, though green and still has a lot to learn, is showing glimmers of a Charles Woodson in his prime.

Is he the missing link to recapturing a ferocious secondary?

He also returns punts. If he keeps it up, there’s a good chance Hyde will still be a Packer on opening day.

But for most of the 90 members of the current roster, they are the pawns.

This is the week for many to make that crucial, lasting impression. Coaches will scrutinize each play.

A missed kick or a miracle catch could make the difference between a final spot on the roster and ticket out of town

No one will see these pawns fall.

For that matter, few even know these understudies’ names. For a handful of lucky, they will quietly pass through the waiver wire like football flotsam in an ocean of uncertainty and emerge on the other side with an invitation to join the practice squad.

Others’ phones will start ringing shortly after the cuts are announced with offers to try out for other teams, and their careers will continue just a little longer.

No one wants to hear the dreaded word, “Coach wants to see you now, and bring your iPad or any playbooks you have.”

A polite request, but it is the universal code for, “Your services are no longer needed.”

For many, that call will have a painful finality to it.

To the coaching machines that keep each team seamlessly moving forward, these players are expendable, and their NFL careers may both start and end during the brief handful of days of training camp.

Dreams will come to an abrupt halt long before they can even come to fruition. They say the average span of an NFL career is approximately 3 years.

But for so many players whose names are quickly lost to the sands of time, their careers can be marked in only weeks.

By now the coaches have already started to make their lists — their keep and cut lists.

Between now and August 27, each of those men will quietly thank the organization for the opportunity and turn in their gear and walk away from professional football forever.

But for a few, there are still a few practices and the preseason matchup against the Seahawks that may make a difference.

Hustle faster, complete more passes, hit harder. Accuracy, strength, reliability and endurance, each is a quality that will make the difference.

It’s never an easy process to whittle the team down toward the final roster.

Each year the goal is the same.

Every August the Packers staff tries to craft a team that will carry them to a championship in the following February.

Hopefully they find the perfect combination to reach that goal as Super Bowl champs.

Kelly Hodgson (@ceallaigh_k on Twitter) is the co-host of Out of the Pocket at PackersTalk.com. Her other Packers musings can be found at PocketDoppler.com.

Scroll through the photo gallery to see the current roster, and listen live to 620WTMJ's Jeff Falconio and Greg Matzek as they play "Keep or Cut" on Sports Central at 6:00 p.m. Thursday.

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