Ask a former NFL player: What happens when you’re released during roster cuts?

In his final mailbag before the season starts, former NFL lineman Geoff Schwartz explains what it’s like to be cut and why the Cowboys will be fine without Zeke for a while.

Folks, we did it! We survived the offseason, training camp, joint practices, and now the preseason. The regular season is upon us with the opening game of the 100th NFL season happening on Thursday night! I can’t wait.

Before we get to this week’s mailbag, it’s time for me to remind you that you can always reach out to me on Twitter or Instagram if you’d like any questions answered next time.

NFL teams are trimming their rosters this weekend. What is it like being released? @bearsforfears

Good question. I know this feeling well, as it’s happened twice to me.

Unfortunately, this time of the year is a necessary evil in the NFL. The current roster sits at 90 players and the final rosters, by the end of the weekend, will be down to 53. There will be players released over the weekend who will never see the football field again. It’s sad, but that’s the reality of the business.

NFL teams need to cut 37 players. They know who 30 of them are before the fourth preseason game. They might even know who 35 of those players will be. The teams will start making the calls early Friday morning for almost 30 of those players. It’s a phone call that most know is coming, but nonetheless, there’s nothing pleasant or welcoming about it.

In 2008, I knew the Panthers were releasing me. They called my hotel room at 6 a.m. after the fourth preseason game, and told me to bring my playbook and head to the stadium. I was released, sent back to the hotel, and waited for the practice squad call.

If the team releases a player without the intention of signing him back to the practice squad, he is given a plane ticket and sent on his way. You pack up your stuff in the locker room, say your goodbyes, and bounce. It’s exactly how you see it on Hard Knocks. It’s depressing cleaning out your stuff, knowing the work you put into the offseason, training camp, and the preseason games is for naught. All of us were rock stars in college and now we are humbled.

There will be that initial release, and then the team needs to make the tough decision of releasing the final few players. This is almost worse for a player. You just sit by your phone and wait for a phone call. If you don’t get a call, you just continue with your day and eventually head back to the facility for a team meeting, which means you’ve most likely made the roster.

The WORST part of this process is that players will be cut after you’ve “made” the team because teams have claimed other players off the waiver wire. You’ve gone through the “welcome to the team” meeting where the coach starts preparing everyone for the regular season. At the same time, the front office is sifting through the waiver wire trying to improve the team. Once they’ve put in the waiver claim, they don’t know right way if they’ve been awarded those players.

But once they do, someone must be released to make room. It’s awful.

Why is there so much hate from the national sports media toward the Lions? @RthaTruth

I’m not sure there’s “hate” from the sports media. I think most people don’t believe in the Lions for various reasons. One seems to be Matt Patricia. Most former Bill Belichick assistants have “failed” and last season didn’t give many people much hope about Patricia for the future.

Second is new offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and his run-first gameplan. That doesn’t seem to work often and with Matthew Stafford, the focus of the offense should be the quarterback, not the run game.

I don’t “hate” on the Lions. I think they are an average team and with the Packers, Bears, and Vikings being good, I think it’s a tough year for the Lions.

Do the Cowboys have a chance without Zeke? @Trom_Bryan

Of course they have a chance without Ezekiel Elliott, especially if everyone else is healthy. Dak Prescott and the offense grew last season when Amari Cooper came on board. They added Randall Cobb and the defense is legit.

Jerry Jones said he doesn’t expect Elliott to end his holdout before Week 1, but that shouldn’t be a problem. The Cowboys’ first three games of the season are against the Giants, Washington, and the Dolphins. They should start the season 3-0 and then their confidence will be through the roof.

While Zeke is a fantastic running back, history has shown that teams can survive without their top rushing attacks. As Jones said, teams don’t need an elite running back to win a Super Bowl now.

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