After a restless night, hundreds of NFL players nervously checked their cellphones Saturday morning, cringing every time it buzzed. Teams had to whittle their rosters to the 53-man maximum.
Akron native Antoine Winfield, a product of Garfield High School and Ohio State, was among those who got the dreaded call. The Seattle Seahawks cut the 14-year, All-Pro defensive back after signing him to a one-year deal in April. The Seahawks also cut former Browns quarterback Brady Quinn and veteran fullback Michael Robinson, a Pro Bowl selection in 2011.
The New England Patriots cut quarterback Tim Tebow, the biggest name among the notable cuts.
“I will remain in relentless pursuit of continuing my lifelong dream of being an NFL quarterback,” an undaunted Tebow tweeted.
After being let go by his third team in 18 months — and with the season just five days away — the quarterback’s chances of immediately catching on with another team seem slim.
Several other veteran quarterbacks also found themselves looking for work on this Labor Day weekend as the New York Giants released longtime backup David Carr, the Green Bay Packers cut Vince Young and the Buffalo Bills chopped Matt Leinart.
Other cuts included:
• Eagles right guard Danny Watkins.
• 49ers long-snapper Brian Jennings.
• 49ers wide receiver Austin Collie.
• Panthers quarterback Jimmy Clausen.
• Saints safety Jim Leonhard.
• Chargers wide receiver Robert Meachem.
• Bengals backup quarterback John Skelton.
Those who made the 53-man rosters had a weekend respite before heading back to work Monday, except for the Broncos and Ravens, who kick off the season Thursday night in Denver.
Among Denver’s cuts was veteran running back Lance Ball, paving the way for C.J. Anderson of Cal to make the roster while the Broncos wait for him to recover from a sprained right MCL.
The Indianapolis Colts kept 27-year-old rookie linebacker Caesar Rayford, a veteran of the Arena and Canadian leagues, and quarterback Tyler Bray made the Chiefs’ roster.
“It’s not an easy day because they all worked hard,” Broncos boss John Elway said about the players who didn’t make it. “We just don’t have enough slots for everybody.”
Every coach calls it the cruelest day of the year in pro football. But today might prove worse as some bottom-rung players who barely had the chance to celebrate making the team get discharged in favor of waiver wire pickups.
This could be it for Tebow, the popular but polarizing player who has provided his supporters and detractors with plenty of fodder during his 35-game NFL career that includes a 47.9 completion percentage, 17 touchdown throws, nine interceptions, a dozen touchdown runs and 15 fumbles.
Jettisoned by the Jets last winter, Tebow signed June 11 with New England, where the man who drafted him in Denver, Josh McDaniels, is the offensive coordinator. His three-month stay with the Patriots was lower key than his stints with the Broncos, who he led to the playoffs in 2011, and Jets, but he still had trouble throwing the ball, posting a passer rating of just 47.2.
Tebow’s last play with the Patriots, and perhaps in the NFL, was a 9-yard touchdown toss Thursday night.