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It's Crunch Time for NFL Dreams


NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Hundreds of NFL players around the league are preparing to put the finishing touches on their respective training camp resumes. Each team has one remaining exhibition contest – the final chance for players to stake their claim to a roster spot.

Tuesday's 3 p.m. CT deadline mandated that all NFL teams cut their rosters to 75 players.

The Titans began that process on Monday, waiving 12 players – LB Kendrick Adams, CB Marc Anthony, DL Lanier Coleman, OL Kevin Danser, OL Tyler Horn, WR Julian Horton, RB Waymon James, CB Micah Pellerin, WR Jaz Reynolds, S Hakeem Smith, WR Derel Walker and LB Jonathan Willard.

Tuesday brought three more cuts, including LB David Hinds, WR Isaiah Williams and OL Gabe Ikard (injured). The Titans also placed LB Colin McCarthey on injured reserve and signed quarterback Dominique Davis.

Those names are just the beginning of what will be a long list come Saturday when teams will have to trim rosters to just 53 players. It's a stressful week for players, but equally so for NFL coaches and executives.

"We've been with these guys for a long time if you count OTAs and mini camps, then the start of camp, so it's always tough," said Titans head coach Ken Whisenhunt. "I do talk to every one of them. I think that's important. I've been through this process on both sides, and obviously it's not pleasant either way. The conversation with each one of them is different. They're at different stages of their career. What it means for them means different things, so it's a tough day."

The different stages of an NFL career come full circle with everyone trying to prove the same thing. For young players, it's about proving they have what it takes to make it. For veterans, it's about showing they can still produce at a high level.

"This is a production based league," said safety George Wilson, who is preparing for his ninth NFL season. "You have to be able to hold up and stay healthy. You have to be able to stay productive and be a jack of all trades. I don't think any of that ever changes. You have to always stay grounded and humble and keep the mindset of trying to prove yourself every day."

With many of the expected starters likely to see a small role in Thursday's preseason finale at home vs. Minnesota, more reps will be allotted to players who might not have seen as much time in the first three exhibition contests.

"It's an opportunity for some guys to start their careers and it's an opportunity for other guys to sustain their careers," continued Wilson. "Regardless of whatever boat you're in, you still have a positive outlook on it. You still have another opportunity to put on tape what you can do and what value you have."

Whisenhunt noted most guys understand the gravity of the situation.

"I think they know what's going on," said Whisenhunt. "They know it's an opportunity. One of the things you do talk about with the group is that it's an opportunity with us, but also with the other teams in the league as well. There is maneuvering during this time of the year and what they put on tape other teams will watch. We're going to be doing the same thing after this game. It's an important opportunity they should be excited about."

The word "competition" has been said tirelessly throughout the last month and it all finally comes to a head this week.

 Wide receiver Brian Robiskie is in the thick of one of the most competitive position groups on the roster. He as well as others shared the sentiment that as long as they can feel good about their effort level, there's no point in being nervous.

"I can see how it can be [a nervous week] but for me it's not, really," said Robiskie. "I know it's part of the business. All I can do is showcase what I'm able to do and let the chips fall where they may."

Whisenhunt said at the beginning of camp that he hoped his decisions would be as difficult as possible; it would appear that hope has become a reality. Starting Thursday night after the game, that decision making process will begin.

On Sunday, teams will build their practice squad. The new wrinkle this season is that teams are allowed 10 players rather than eight in years past. Teams benefit from having extra bodies at practice and players benefit from 64 additional roster spots being made available.

The fury of cuts means only one thing – the regular season is nearly upon us.

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