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Friday, September 3, 2010
Speed Dial: Tales of The Turk

By Tim Graham

Time for another edition of "Speed Dial," where I call a few people from my cell phone address book to get their insight on a particular subject.

Today's question: With the deadline to finalize the 53-man roster coming at 6 p.m. Saturday, what comes to mind when you think of The Turk, the mythological being who lets a player know he has been cut?

Rod Rust, former New England Patriots head coach:
"The name carries connotations that sound like somebody with a scimitar, going around and cutting people's heads off. It's not as heartless as it sounds. The coaches talk about how to minimize the moment. There's always a lot of thought put into it because there's a bond between the coach and player with all the hard work they put in. And then 'Oh, by the way, you're not going to be around.' It's not easy for anybody.

Rod Rust
Former Patriots coach Rod Rust says roster cuts are difficult for everyone involved.
"Some places it's a messenger that says 'The head coach wants to see you.' More often than not, The Turk is not a person far up the organizational chart. He's someone near the bottom. It's pretty impersonal, but the person's not at any emotional risk because he clearly is not the one who made the decision. There's a psychology there, obviously.

"I can remember being very, very depressed on that day. That's the hardest day of the year. A lot of coaches will tell you that. It's absolutely no fun."

Al Groh, former New York Jets head coach and Patriots defensive coordinator:
"The Turk has been many people and a much-storied individual, that's for sure. He's somebody that you don't want to know. I was never The Turk. I just had to deal with the aftermath of The Turk's visit. It was always very touching to see, really, how they were affected by it and, in many cases, realized how the course of their life was about to change.

"I did have a circumstance when I was coaching the linebackers for the Jets with Bill Parcells. His name was Chad Cascadden, a walk-on player and very bright. I had been his position coach, and now I was head coach of the team. I'd been in that meeting room with him every day for three years, spent a lot of time with Chad and admired him. My wife and I went to his wedding. And it was my chore to tell him he wasn't going to be with us anymore. That was particularly difficult."

Herm Edwards, former New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs head coach:
"When I went to training camp there were 125 guys. It was two months and six preseason games. The Turk was alive and well. They were cutting 10, 15 guys at a time. You'd get five or six on a Monday, then get another four or five on Tuesday.

"My rookie year in Philadelphia they used to slide a white piece of paper under the door. It would have the name and say 'Bring your playbook.' I was roommates with a guy by the name of Skip Sharp. We both were defensive backs. He was a draft pick. I was a free agent. The second week of camp, they slid the paper underneath the door, but you couldn't see the name. I was an early riser, and when the paper came under the door around 4:30 in the morning or so, I go 'You gotta be kidding, man. They're getting ready to cut me?' I thought I was doing pretty good. So I picked up the paper, and it had Skip's name on it. I didn't wake him up at all. I got out of there. I put the paper down, went to facility at about 6 in the morning and checked my locker to make sure my gear was still in there."

Ted Cottrell, former Buffalo Bills, Jets and San Diego Chargers defensive coordinator:
"Sometimes a player gets cut not because they can't play, but because you don't have a spot for them at the moment. A lot of times, you cut a player and you bring him right back as soon as there's an injury.
"I can tell you a story. When I was with Kansas City in 1981, we had a player I had gotten a tryout. I had coached him at Rutgers University. He signed as a punter and got an opportunity to play in the exhibition season. Because of some injuries, I got him an opportunity to play safety the last couple games. He did a great job, but he did not make the team. He was one of the last cuts. I said 'As soon as someone gets hurt, you're probably coming back here because of what you have done.' Three weeks later, he was brought back. He goes on to make six Pro Bowls. He's on their Ring of Honor. His name is Deron Cherry."