As the final NFL preseason games come to an end, opening day rosters start to solidify. It’s been a tough journey, but the regular season is finally here. For rookies, the end of the preseason signifies the beginning of their professional football career. For others, it’s the end of a dream for now, or forever.
The day after the final preseason game is always morbid, as the proverbial grim reaper hangs out and waits for guys on the cut list to grace the building. This reaper has traded his black hood and a sickle for a list and a pen. Some guys hold their breath, close their eyes, or even take a different route to the locker room.
Nevertheless, there’s nothing a player can do to avoid fate if he’s on that list. I still remember experiencing final cuts for the first time during my rookie year. I had no idea what was happening; for me it was just another day, until I saw guys getting picked off left and right. After giving their all, some guys cry after being told they aren’t what the team is looking for.
Guys you have built a bond with just vanish, many of whom you never see or speak with again. I’m in my seventh year as an NFL linebacker, this one with the Buffalo Bills. Watching guys I’ve worked with disappear never gets easy. I never know what to say. No words will make them feel better. In years where it wasn’t mandatory, I’ve avoided going to the facility on cut day. However, much like their fate, I can’t avoid seeing the empty locker or seat in the meeting room. But as they say, the show must go on.
Keith Rivers is in his seventh year in the NFL and currently plays linebacker for the Buffalo Bills. He was drafted ninth overall in the 2008 NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California with a degree in Policy, Planning and Development.