Tuesday will be Bill Belichick’s 28th cutdown day as a head coach.
Even at 70 years old, it hasn’t gotten much easier. The Patriots have already whittled their roster from 90 to 80 players, but on Tuesday it needs to be cut way down to 53. On a Zoom video call, Belichick said having to release those players still weighs on him after all this time.
“Absolutely. Without a doubt,” Belichick said. “Everybody knows what the situation is when we go into it. We have 90 players. We go to 53. Thirty-seven of the 90 can’t be on the team. Whichever 37 they are or aren’t that’s another conversation, but 37 of the 90 can’t make the 53-man roster. We all know that this is a production business and it’s very competitive. When you join the National Football League, you know what that’s going to be. You’re one of 90. You have to earn a spot as one of the 53. So there’s no new rules, ground rules, there’s nothing new there.
“The actual process is very difficult for all of us. Myself. Certainly assistant coaches who have established a close relationship with their players and respect for their players because of their effort, work ethic, and commitment that they make to the team. But ultimately 37 of those 90 players can’t be with the team. So it’s always difficult to talk to those players about the fact that they’ve done a lot, they’ve contributed a lot. They’ve worked hard. They’ve put a lot into it. But 37 of the 90 — or now 27 of the 90 with the roster being at 80 — are not going to be on the 53-man roster. So that is difficult.”
One saving grace? The NFL has keep expanded practice squads, enabling players to stick around for longer than they may have in the past.
“The flip-side of that is, 53 players with a 16-man practice squad puts you at 69, so let’s call it 70,” Belichick said. “So now there are let’s call it 10 players (to move on from) — players can come from other teams and so forth — but just in round numbers the 27 really is a little closer to 10. It’ll be more than 10 but it’s closer to 10 than to 27 because those players, potentially, there’ll be players that’ll be asked to be on the practice squad which will enable them to continue their career and their development in the National Football League, just not on the 53-man roster. So that’s a little bit of a bridge in the whole process.
“I don’t think any player would see that as good news, but it’s not as bad as not being on the roster. So it’s some kind of a bridge in between.”