It was one of the worst parts of my job as General Manager of the Denver Broncos. I’d call down to Player Personnel and ask one of the guys to go to the locker room and summon a player up to my office. There were normally two reasons why players ever came to see me; to sign their contract and to be told they were being released.
The last piece of the puzzle.
Every player that I ever added to the Broncos roster was one that I had genuinely seen in my mind as contributing in some form or fashion. I never tried to add “roster filler”, but rather searched hard for guys that had some sort of aspect to their personality, skill set, or overall makeup that might add a little something to our team. Heading into Training Camp the rosters are always bloated with young second chance players, rookies, and long toothed vets all in hope of finding the right fit.
At this point in their careers that sometimes is the best they can hope for. A chance to be that last piece of the 53 man puzzle that NFL Clubs are looking to complete before the start of the regular season.
So as the player would make his way slowly up the backstairs from the Broncos facility in Dove Valley, I’d tried to think of something comforting to say that otherwise might ease the pain of the reality they were about to hear. In the end there really isn’t anything you can say; dreams are dashed, careers are ended, hope is squashed. For many rookies it’s the first time they’ve been rejected by the game they so much love, but for of the rest of the “pink slip” players – they’ve been down this road before.
What is reality?
In many instances the talent pool catches up with the “roster reductions” in the summer. These players get their one and only chance to see if they’ve got what it takes to play as professionals. Speed, quickness, strength, instincts, or just plain “want to” tells them they don’t. But in a lot of cases it has nothing to do with character, skill, or commitment…it just boils down to it’s not the right fit. The player truly has the makeup of a professional piece of the puzzle, it’s just that his piece can’t wedge into this particular picture.
And so I told them that when they somberly walked into my office. “This has nothing to do with you as a person. This has nothing to do with the effort you gave us over the course of the off-season and throughout Training Camp. You weren’t any less skilled than some of the other players at your position and you certainly weren’t outperformed over your time on the field. You have the parameters that teams in the National Football League are looking for. It just wasn’t the right fit.”
It just wasn’t the right fit.
I encouraged them to forge ahead with their dreams, to use this experience as a positive, and to not let the sting of disappointment get in the way of the outstanding opportunities that were ahead for them. The strengths they carried as young men on the football field would also help carry them off of it. Their future was bright regardless of whether it led them to another NFL team or on to something completely different. They couldn’t have done anything differently, put forth any more energy, produced any other result.
I’d shake their hand; pat them on the back, and promise to do whatever I could to help them down whatever road they chose to take. It just wasn’t the right fit.
Ever had that feeling?