(Brendon Ayanbadejo knows what it’s like to meet "The Turk" – i.e. the long-time nickname for the ultimate bearer of bad news, the member of the organization assigned to tracking down players about to be cut each summer. The linebacker/special teamer was cut three times before going on to a 10-year career that saw him play in the three Pro Bowls and earn a Super Bowl ring with the Baltimore Ravens.)
1. To work out or not to work out, that is the question. Rookies, you went straight from bowl games to All-Star games to Combine prep, Combine, OTAs, minicamp, training camp and four preseason games . . . only to meet the ax. It has been a long haul and you definitely deserve a week off. But guess what? Teams are continuing to scout and fill up their 53-man rosters, as well as their eventual practice squads. You can be called at any moment. They say luck is when preparation meets opportunity. Do not squander the opportunity when an NFL team calls regardless of whether or not it’s Week 1 or Week 17.
2. Get your passports ready. Let’s be honest: Rosters have dropped from 75 to 53 with an additional nine to 10 guys on the practice squad. That means there are 12 players x 32 teams that will not find homes until another player is injured or otherwise deems himself unworthy. The CFL translates to 95 percent of the positions in the NFL. Canada is a great place to build your skills and evolve as a professional football player. The wide-open style of offenses in the CFL more than ever mimic the style of ball played in today’s pass-happy NFL. The only two positions that are out of luck are tight ends and, potentially fullbacks as not every CFL team carriers a true fullback.
3. Surround yourself with like-minded people. You are now on the path less traveled. You either need to be around your peers who are still striving to get back into the NFL or be around friends and family who will support your goals and ambition. The key phrase is supporting your goals and ambitions, not supporting you. You will have to pay your own way. Moving back in with moms and pops may not sound sexy, but it is a viable option. This will enable you to continue to eat, train and live your dream. It’s always a great option to train at your local high-performance training center, maybe even putting a few bucks in your pocket by training kids there. Sure beats a desk job.
4. You have come too far to quit now! If playing in the NFL was easy, a lot more people would be playing pro football. If you want something you have never had before, you will have to do things you have never done before. You need to continue to develop your skills mentally and physically. If you have to go out on the practice field and visualize going against ghost players. You need to hone in on the skills you lacked in the NFL. You are 22 years old. You haven’t nearly reached your peak in size, speed and strength. Continue to work on all facets of your game: mental, physical, and (the hardest part) dialing in on the unique skills of your position.
5. Stay disciplined and stick to a regimen. Now you are on your own. There are no drug tests, there are no curfews. Though you are no longer on an NFL roster, you still need to act as if you are on that 33rd NFL team. You need to keep the same frame of mind and discipline as if you were still preparing for the Combine. A team can call at any time. Guess what drills they want you to do? Yes, that’s right: A 40-yard dash, vertical and broad jump and position-specific drills. When that team calls and flies you to its facility for a workout don’t be surprised if you get a drug test as well.
With mental and physical preparation, you, too, can also join that team of NFL players fresh from the street and become the next Kurt Warner or (recently retired) James Harrison. These two know something about being cut, yet they both ended up at the pinnacle of the NFL — outfitted with a Lombardi Trophy and Super Bowl rings!
One of the worst days in the NFL. Good luck to all the guys facing hardships. Keep grindin, you're the only one who can write your story!