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Byrne Identity: 1,000 Players Cut – It's Brutal

Posted Aug 31, 2012

John Harbaugh never wants to lose sight of the fact he might be ending a players' dream.

1,000 Players Cut – It’s Brutal

There have been just over 1,000 players cut from NFL teams in the past two weeks.

1,000 young men told in the bluntest of manner: "You're not good enough."

Including today, the Ravens have released 37 players since the start of training camp six weeks ago. Up to eight of those could be back to our practice squad.

Those released are special. Almost of all of them have been the best athlete in their neighborhoods, the best in their grade schools, the best in their high schools, and, in many cases, the best of their college team.

A lot of them have been team captains in multiple sports. All-Conference, All-State, All-Metro. The cream of the crop.

We've released class presidents, honor students and some who struggled to stay eligible at their schools.

We've let go of young men who poured everything they had into becoming a pro football player. Some are shocked and have no idea what their next step might be. Some may never recover from the blow. Some will struggle for years as they try to find a new way to make a living.

It happens in a flash. "Coach wants to see you." Or, "Follow me, Oz wants to talk with you."

Some are stunned. Some have seen the writing on the wall.

Released Player Speaks Up

We released Chester Stewart, a quarterback from Temple with a dynamic personality, a week ago. Stewart, who has degree in criminology, guided Washington D.C.’s DeMatha High School to an undefeated season his senior year, when he was team captain (which he was at Temple also).

“I’ll never forget my time with the Ravens. It was like living out a dream,” Stewart said this afternoon. “All of a sudden I was in the locker room with people I’ve watched on television for years, and they treated me as an equal. I didn’t expect that.

“I don’t have anything to compare it to, but I don’t think there is another team like the Ravens,” Stewart continued. “They made my adjustment easy. They have so much chemistry. I wasn’t treated like a nobody.

“Getting released hurt. It was disappointing. But, I understood. Coach Harbaugh was straightforward with me. He told me he appreciated my effort and told me what I had to work on to stay in the game. Ozzie wished me luck and thanked me. I felt bad and respected – know what I mean? Does that make sense?” Stewart summarized.

Coach Harbaugh Feels for the Released Player

"More than ever, I'm conscious that I'm sometimes ending a person's dream," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "I don't want to ever lose sight of that. They deserve to have me look into their eyes and treat that moment with dignity and truth.

"They'll remember that conversation for the rest of their lives," Harbaugh continued. "These are good, good guys – good men. Men who have done everything they could to be an NFL player. I feel a certain responsibility in treating that conversation with all I can muster. Haven't we all been there in some way? Having been told, 'You're not good enough. I don't like you. It's not going to work out.' There's not a nice way to say it. You try to find the right words. It's hard.

"Sometimes I feel like I haven't given enough time to the young man. There's the next player waiting. There's another meeting, another practice – and all the things that deserve my full attention. You hope you haven't short-changed someone in that tough situation."

Harbs indicated that many players make it easier: "When we make a player a Raven, even if he comes in as the 90th player on the 90-player roster, we bring him here because he has a chance to make us better," Harbaugh explained. "We don't want bodies filling a position need. We bring in great competitors.

"I'm struck by how many show their appreciation for the opportunity we provided. That speaks volumes about the type of person we bring here. We believe in fair chances and opportunities. All of our players get reps in practice. They get opportunities. We tell them that when they become Ravens: 'You will get every opportunity to show that you can help us be a better team.'

"It makes you feel better when the player says: 'Thanks, you gave me a chance.'"

Harbaugh knows ending dreams is part of the job. "No doubt, it's a challenge. But, I salute these young men. In a short time, you build a relationship with them. Stronger relationships with veterans who have been here for awhile."

General Manager Ozzie Newsome said: "It's never easy. It's what we have to do. I try to give them some encouragement. Maybe another team will see them in a different light. But, you know sometimes that it is the end of their football lives."

Today, Coach and Oz, we join you in saluting the guys who didn't make it. The Chester Stewarts. The young men who had to call their parents, their wives or girlfriends – their best friend – or former coach, mentor or teacher and say: "I didn't make it."

Well, yes, you did make it. You were in the arena. You did fight for your spot. You deserve our salutes. You deserve more than a line in small print that says: "Today, the Ravens released the following players."

That's too harsh.

Wish there was a better way. But, proud of the attention Coach Harbaugh and Ozzie Newsome give it.

Thanks for reading. Talk to you next week.


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