The current University of Alabama football players enjoyed a 26-7 win over Middle Tennessee this past Saturday night, but for eight former Crimson Tide players, this weekend was much than any loss suffered at Alabama.
The list of former Alabama players who were cut by NFL teams over the weekend includes cornerback Waine Bacon (Indianapolis), offensive linemen Shawn Draper (Atlanta), Dante Ellington (Baltimore), running back Ahmaad Galloway (San Diego), receiver Triandos Luke (Denver), punter Chris Mohr (Washington) and 2005 7th round draft pick Cornelius Wortham (Seattle).
The most notable and surprising Alabama cut was 2004 All-SEC offensive tackle, Wesley Britt. He was drafted in the 5th round by the San Diego Chargers in 2005 and was expected to earn a spot on the team as a back-up.
Chargers head coach Marty Shottenheimer was asked about releasing Britt and Wes Sims from Oklahoma, both 2005 draft picks. He told chargers.com that the guys he had returning simply elevated their play.
"Our decision to let them go had much more to do with the improvement of Leander Jordan and Kris Dielman than it did with their performances," Schottenheimer said. "Both Leander and Kris really came along this summer, so we decided to stick with them."
On Sunday, the Chargers announced the eight players, one international, that were signed for their practice squad. Wesley Britt was not on that list.
Wesley's brother Justin Britt, a starter on the Crimson Tide defensive line at tackle, gave me a little heads-up last week, that Wesley wasn't a lock to make the team. "He's a little nervous about making the team right now. They returned all nine guys from last year on the offensive line," he said.
Justin said things were going well for Wesley out in San Diego, he felt good and was "lovin' it out there." Apparently, the numbers weren't in Wesley's favor, which is always a factor in the NFL. I hear people say that guys that don't get drafted or are released, are actually better off because then they can latch on with a team that has a bigger need at their position or is a better fit. That's all good in theory, but you still have to convince those teams to give you a shot.
If they've done their homework and knew what kind of ability you had coming out of college then you have a chance. If you're a poorly run organization who doesn't draft well, players might not get that shot.
News for the University of Alabama was not all bad. Alabama does have 20 players that are on opening week rosters. Seven players are listed as starters on their team's depth charts: Running back Shaun Alexander (Seattle), left tackle Chris Samuels (Washington), cornerbacks Deshea Townsend (Pittsburgh) and Fernando Bryant (Detroit), guard Justin Smiley (San Francisco), defensive end Antwan Odom (Tennessee) and dedfensive tackle Cornelius Griffin (Washington).
Alabama had 13 former stars make NFL teams who are listed as backups: They are DE – Kenny King (Arizona), DT – Jarret Johnson (Baltimore), TE – Terry Jones (Baltimore), RB – Shaud Williams (Buffalo), DT – Kindal Moorehead (Carolina), CB – Reggie Myles (Cincinnati), DT – Michael Myers (Denver), C – Alonzo Ephraim (Miami), LB – Derrick Pope (Miami), DT – Kenny Smith (Oakland), LB – Saleem Rasheed (San Francisco), 2005 6th round draft pick DT – Anthony Bryant (Tampa Bay) and 2005 3rd round draft pick OL – Evan Mathis (Carolina).
20 former players in the NFL is the lowest number in years for the University of Alabama. This is just an after effect of probation and the drop-off the program has suffered from the top of the SEC. I think that's about to change and in the years to follow, you'll see a lot more Bama players in the NFL and making impacts like Shaun Alexander and Chris Samuels have.
Back to Wesley Britt. I was surprised he was released by the Chargers. I saw him hold his own in almost every preseason game. Sadly, yes, I watched them all, except for maybe a Browns or 49'ers game here and there. Wesley looked strong and moved well.
The slight criticism in Wesley's game before the draft, other than injury questions, was that he didn't bend his knees enough in his pass protection stance. There were a few times where defensive ends were able to outside rush on him and stop quickly to cut back inside. That may have something to do with not bending the knees enough and maybe being too tall in his stance as he retreats back, I'm not sure. I know one thing, I didn't see him give up a sack.
Wesley Britt can play in the NFL and I think he will and eventually start. He just needs a shot on a practice squad first. NFL GMs, if you're smart, you'll make the call!
Vince Ferrara hosts The Sports Breakdown, weekday afternoons from 3-6 on Sports Radio 1420 the Tusk in Tuscaloosa. He can be reached at email@example.com.