Dreams to die for many Vikings after Saturday

The Minnesota Vikings will shave their roster to 75 players in the days following Saturday night’s game.

For more than a dozen Vikings, tonight may well be the end of the line for their football careers.

The Vikings currently have 89 players on their roster, which makes for cramped quarters at Winter Park – a locker room equipped to house the 53 players and eight practice squad members that end up making the team and not much more. By Tuesday, that number needs to be whittled down to 75.

It is one of the jobs head coaches dread, telling a player who has toiled tirelessly since May that he doesn’t have what it takes to make a roster. Former Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier said he had a hard time sleeping the night before the cuts because he knew part of his job description was to make the decision to inform the players who didn’t survive the cuts that they were released. It can be an emotional time for both players and coaches, but it is one of the eventualities of the NFL that is part of the business of football.

To casual fans, when the first list of cuts comes out, it isn’t earth-shattering. There are very few recognizable names, although there are some veterans who organizations feel they’re doing a favor to players by making them early cuts and giving them a chance to make another roster. But, for the most part, the players who get released now are more likely not to get another look from a team.

Almost 500 players will their notice between now on Tuesday, being told that their dream of playing in the NFL is either over or it’s on hold. Considering that more than 700 players will get their pink slip next Saturday on top of the nearly 500 released on Tuesday, the odds of the initial cuts hooking on with another team seems a bit remote.

It can be an unnerving experience for all involved. For the players who are told they won’t be making the roster, it can be a disheartening reality check. For the coaches who have evaluated those players in hopes of finding a diamond in the rough among the slew of late-round draft picks and undrafted players, it’s the harsh reality of the game that you can’t keep everyone you want on a roster.

In many cases, the handwriting is already on the wall. While head coach Mike Zimmer said this week that the coaching staff likely won’t look at their cut-down list of candidates until Sunday when the Vikings return from Dallas, the reality is that the team likely already has its list of 14 players completed, they’re just waiting to make sure nobody gets injured tonight that would save one or two of the players from the call from The Turk.

It’s part of the annual ritual of the NFL, as players hope they don’t get a call on their phone that has a Winter Park number associated with it. There will be a lot of nervous players watching and waiting to hear the word as to which of them will be cut and which will survive another few days before the final cuts are made.

For those players who have worked all summer and, in some cases, several years of going to training camps and offseason programs in the hopes of impressing the right coach or front office person and beating the odds and making a roster, the reality of their situation is that they had a finite amount of time to make an impression and protect their spot on the roster.

As the Vikings’ starters rest in the second half of tonight’s game, the interest level of casual fans will decrease as the game wears on, but for many of the players, the intensity level of the second half of tonight’s game will be high, because, in many instances, they are literally fighting for their football lives.

When the list comes out of the Vikings roster casualties, there likely won’t be any names on the list that will be shocker to fans, but with each name on the list is a dream that has been snuffed out despite their best efforts. In a sport where there isn’t a long memory, those players whose dreams do get crushed will become answers to trivia questions. But for those players involved, Tuesday’s announcement of the cuts will be a life-altering event.

For fans who say preseason games are meaningless and, at times, even boring in the second halves, don’t tell that to the players who are fighting for their professional lives. Those who know they’ve locked down roster spots can joke and laugh on the sidelines as their teammates finish out the string of preseason games, but for those on the field tonight after the sun goes down, they will be leaving everything they have on the field because the sun may well be setting on their desire to be a NFL player.


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