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The final cut

First-hand account of an NFL career coming to a close

Posted: Monday September 3, 2007 12:13AM; Updated: Monday September 3, 2007 11:51PM
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Ross Tucker, who was put on the IR by the Redskins and will likely never play again,  started 24 games in his six-year NFL career.
Ross Tucker, who was put on the IR by the Redskins and will likely never play again, started 24 games in his six-year NFL career.
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The press release below, was one of scores issued by NFL teams in the past week, when all 32 clubs had two cutdown dates -- last Tuesday, cutting to 75, and Saturday, the final cut to 53.

Washington Redskins Reach Mandatory Roster Limit Ashburn, Va. -- The Washington Redskins announce today they have reached the mandatory roster limit of 75 players by releasing defensive tackle Joe Salave'a, placing offensive lineman Ross Tucker and wide receiver Jason McAddley on injured reserve, and waiving injured fullback Pete Schmitt.

Each team brings 80 players to camp, more in some cases with roster exemptions for NFL Europa players. By Saturday night at least 27 players per team had to be whacked from the July rosters ... players who came to camp with such high hopes, players who left their small towns and big cities six weeks ago, heads high, fired up about playing on the biggest football stage on Earth. That's 864 dreams, give or take a few, crushed. This is the story of one of them.

Before training camp, I had asked Tucker, a veteran offensive lineman, to keep some notes and to write something for Monday Morning Quarterback if the Redskins let him go. "It's one of the things we never get a good view of,'' I told him, "and you're smart enough to convey the true feelings of what a player goes through when he's cut.''

Tucker, a Princeton guy, is a 6-foot-4, 305-pound veteran of six NFL seasons. He started 24 games, mostly for Buffalo, in a career that also included appearances for Washington and Dallas, with camp stops in New England and Cleveland. Though technically it was only Tucker's 2007 season that ended when he was put on injured-reserve last Tuesday, you'll see that it was much more.

**************

By Ross Tucker

I knew instantly what was happening when my cell phone vibrated and I pulled it out of my pocket.

"703"

The only number I know with a 703 area code is the offices of the Washington Redskins. So when I saw the "703," I got sick to my stomach. It took my breath away, literally. I got the call last Monday at 5:30 p.m., while waiting to pay for my sandwich at a Subway restaurant in Ashburn, Va. I didn't answer the call because I was about to pay, and besides, I already knew what the phone call meant. I can only imagine how pale my face looked as I paid for my sub and walked out.

After 18 years of football, the last seven of which were in the NFL, my dream was likely over. Even though I knew it was probably going to happen at some point this week, like most of the 900 or so players in my shoes in the last week also facing the death of their dreams, my heart still told me I had a chance to make the team.

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