Allen Park — Perhaps the emotions are slightly different than in other occupations because the players know it’s a possibility, but at some point before 4 p.m. Tuesday, the Lions will effectively fire more than a dozen players.
And even though he’s been a part of such decisions for a long time, coach Jim Caldwell said Saturday he’s not looking forward to making them again.
“Sad day, to be honest with you,” he said. “This is one of those things where it’s difficult, man. These are guys that have hopes and dreams and families involved. … It’s tough on these guys and a difficult situation, and it is not one of these things that we’re flippant about.
“We look at thing closely, we try to make the best decision we can and then we move forward.”
The Lions had 88 players on the 90-man roster as of Saturday afternoon. During his news conference around 5 p.m., Caldwell said the Lions had not started informing players of their release yet, but didn’t rule out the possibility of that happening Saturday night. Most of the players will likely find out the bad news Monday or Tuesday after a day off Sunday.
Plenty of factors are involved in how the personnel department chooses which guys to cut in the first wave before ultimately the 75 players are reduced to 53 by 4 p.m. Saturday.
Although most of the players cut by Tuesday will be guys whom the coaches and scouts don’t need to see in another preseason game, a few could be players the Lions release early to give them a chance to land with another team. Other players likely to be cut could stay for the final preseason game as the Lions try to determine who will be on the practice squad.
Ryan Broyles, who mostly played with the third-team offense in the first three exhibitions, could be among the group granted an early release as he appears to be on the outside looking in with regards to the competition for the final receiver jobs. Part of the reason Broyles hasn’t been as active this summer was a brief injury he suffered early in training camp, but the Lions also have a good idea what he can do after watching him since 2012, when they drafted him in the second round.
“He’s a good player now,” Caldwell said of Broyles. “The thing about it with him or whomever else out of that receiving corps, I think everybody knows it’s a very, very tight race, and there’s going to be some good football players that we have to let go. We can’t keep them all. It’s just not the way it works, so we have to make a decision on what best suits us at this particular time, what we think puts us in the best position to win, make our decision and move on.”
That’s how the Lions will approach each position battle, but injuries could play a role in the decision-making process. Interior offensive lineman Taylor Boggs and defensive tackle Jermelle Cudjo have been among the best surprises this summer, and if right guard Larry Warford or defensive tackle Caraun Reid are in danger of missing the start of the season, either bubble guy could require a spot.
And while the injuries could help some players make the team, other impressive players might find themselves squeezed out by the numbers. In fact, Caldwell said the 53 most talented guys won’t necessarily be the last ones around.
“I would have to say because sometimes you’re very, very heavy at a certain spot and you can’t keep everybody that you have that’s performing well,” he said. “So, you have to make certain it’s the best 53 for us — let’s put it that way — and that’s what counts.”
Special teams ability will be a key part of the evaluation. Even though Zach Zenner appears locked into the No. 4 tailback job, George Winn could still make the roster with his ability in the game’s third phase. Linebackers like Julian Stanford and Brandon Copeland hope their special teams skills can push them onto the roster at a loaded position, too.
“You think you’re doing good, but you never know,” Copeland said, a common thought of many bubble players.
Asked specifically about the wide receiver spot, where players like Broyles, Jeremy Ross, Lance Moore, TJ Jones and others have competed all offseason for likely just two spots, Caldwell provided a glimpse into how the Lions must make their decisions.
“The ones that stand out are the ones that we’ll keep,” he said. “That’s how we look at it. It’s a competition; it’s not Disneyland. It’s tough; it’s difficult. I compete for my job every day, and these guys are no different.”