The Worst 24 Hours

Posted Sep 3, 2010

Wallace Gilberry and Andy Studebaker remember cut-down day during their rookie seasons

Across 32 NFL cities, these next 24 hours are the worst of times for professional football players. Roughly 700 men will lose their jobs after giving everything that they’ve had for their respective teams during this period of time. For those on the bubble of making the roster, this is a time of high-anxiety. For the players who look to have already secured a place, they’re going to witness some of their best friends lose their jobs.

In the NFL, no player will be comfortable throughout entire their career. At some point in time, every pro will experience that feeling of nervousness; that sinking feeling.

“I always feel like I’m on the bubble,” DE Wallace Gilberry said.

For fans, these next 24 hours are exciting. Each squad is finally making their first version of the 53-man roster, and that means football is finally here. Inside the locker room, however, this is a time that flat-out sucks.

“This is the worst weekend for an NFL player,” Gilberry said. “You sit in a hotel room and you don’t want the phone to ring. It’s painful. You have put everything that you’ve had into it, but it’s in God’s hands. That’s what I kept telling myself (when I was a rookie).”

As an undrafted rookie with the N.Y. Giants, Gilberry was released in the final round of cuts. He’s already experienced one of the worst feelings in all of sports, and that day will never be very far from his mind.

“It was getting to the end of the day and I knew guys that got called up and I was still there, so I was like, ‘I may have made the roster’,” Gilberry remembered. “But then I got the call. At the time, I was on the bus with five other guys. We did the math and figured that we were all going to be on the practice squad, which was a relief because we still had a job. But it’s stressful, it really is.”

This happened to Gilberry just two seasons ago. He’s a perfect example of a player continuing to push forward and work hard towards achieving his dream despite an early setback. Last season, Gilberry lead all Chiefs defensive linemen in sacks.

Another player on the Chiefs roster that has gone through the excruciating process of sitting on the bubble is OLB Andy Studebaker.

“It’s nerve-wrecking, there is no doubt about it,” Studebaker said. “Your phone is on your hip all day long and it’s almost like draft day again, except that you don’t want the phone call. That’s just the reality of it; it’s stressful.”

Unlike Gilberry, Studebaker was a draft pick. Despite being taken in the sixth-round of the 2008 NFL Draft by Philadelphia, there were no scholarships to be had. When it came to cut-down day, Studebaker was sitting on the bubble and that bubble burst.

“I was one of those players who got cut, but it doesn’t mean that the road is over,” Studebaker said. “I think that’s the most important thing is that guys realize that this isn’t the end of the road. This isn’t the end of your career. There is a lot of chance and opportunity for you to have a good NFL career. I got cut on Day One of my rookie year and I’m still here three years later.”

There are success stories like Gilberry and Studebaker, and then there are some who get released that will never put on an NFL uniform again. This is the toughest part of the year, because of the human element that’s involved.

This is a business, and it’s not much different than companies laying off employees. To the person receiving the notice, it’s all the same. Careers are at stake and the world of hundreds of men will be turned upside down by Saturday at 5:00 PM CST.

“We’ve all put a lot of work in over the last six months here and the sad truth is that it has to get cut down to 53 players,” Studebaker said.

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