And for Mark Tauscher, the born-and-bred Badger State football star, it ended, predictably, on Friday.
That's when the Green Bay Packers announced what was conventional wisdom: The 34-year-old offensive tackle, who starred at Auburndale High School and the University of Wisconsin before being the Packers' seventh-round pick in 1999, has been released.
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The decision was anything but shocking. Tauscher, who returned from a torn ACL to be a savior at right tackle during the second half of 2009, saw last season end after just four games because of a rotator cuff injury. In his absence, first-round pick Bryan Bulaga looked like the long-term answer at the position. Given Tauscher's $4.1 million base salary and a cap number of $4.581 million — all of which can come off the cap because there was no signing bonus — and the young talent on the roster, releasing him was nothing more than a business decision.
Albeit an uncomfortable one given the blood, sweat and tears he poured into the job to become one of the league's top right tackles for 132 career starts.
Coach Mike McCarthy thought so highly of Tauscher's leadership that he invited the 11-year pro along on road trips — an unusual move. Tauscher was a regular in the meeting room and was credited for helping Bulaga survive some rough patches during his rookie season.
In a brief interview before the start of Greg Jennings' charity golf tournament last month, Tauscher said rehab on his shoulder was going well but he hadn't decided if he wanted to play this season.
"It was frustrating in the beginning, but as time went on, you come to grips and get a better understanding of what's going on," Tauscher said of last season. "It was a great season and obviously I would have loved to have kept playing but the way it turned out, it was awesome. It was kind of a roller-coaster but for the team to finish the season the way we did was outstanding."
Friday was the first day when teams could officially release players. As such, the team also announced they had released linebackers Nick Barnett, Brandon Chillar and Brady Poppinga, defensive end Justin Harrell and two players who finished last season on the practice squad: safety Michael Greco and outside linebacker Curtis Young.
"We want to thank all of the players for their many contributions to the Green Bay Packers throughout their careers," general manager Ted Thompson said in a statement. "During their time here, they have been valuable members of our organization and our community. We wish all of them the very best in the future."
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport.