- Kieran Darcy, ESPNNewYork.com
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NEW YORK -- Mark Herzlich has defied the odds and made his NFL dreams come true.
Herzlich, the undrafted free agent linebacker out of Boston College who was diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer in his left leg in 2009, has made the New York Giants' initial 53-man roster. The Giants had to remove 27 players from their active roster by 6 p.m. ET on Saturday to meet the NFL deadline, and Herzlich was not among the Giants' cuts.
"Herzlich didn't bat an eye the whole camp," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "Physically, he did everything you asked and more. I saw him improve literally week by week. He can play multiple positions. He's very smart. He does an outstanding job on special teams. He's told one time and he goes and does it. He deserves it."
Herzlich tweeted: "Well it is 6:03pm an I am still a Giant God Is Good."
When reached by phone Saturday evening, Herzlich's father, Sandy, said he was overjoyed by the news.
"It's been a series of starts and stops," the elder Herzlich said. "Mark played great at BC, then he got sick. He fired it back up again and had a really good senior year, but then he doesn't get drafted. The NFL has a lockout, but then he signed as a free agent. It felt like constant starting and stopping, but we never lost confidence that he was a great football player, and he deserves everything happening to him."
In fact, the Giants retained four rookie linebackers. Besides Herzlich, they also kept sixth-round draft choices Greg Jones (Michigan State) and Jacquian Williams (South Florida), and fellow undrafted free agent Spencer Paysinger (Oregon). Two linebackers the Giants drafted in 2010 -- fourth-rounder Phillip Dillard and sixth-rounder Adrian Tracy -- were waived.
"The best thing that they did was play special teams, although Jones was pretty solid in there as a middle backer, too," Coughlin said. "But the other guys flashed the other night (against the Patriots). Paysinger made a couple of nice physical plays. Herzlich had an outstanding sack and did a nice job on special teams. Williams had a big night -- he came off the edge very well and played very well on special teams. He got a big block on the punt return. Herzlich did, too. They continue to get better."
One of the biggest surprises of the day was that Sage Rosenfels, the Giants' backup quarterback last season, was placed on season-ending injured reserve. Rosenfels missed time in training camp with strep throat as well as back problems. David Carr, who served as Eli Manning's backup in 2008 and 2009, and who returned to the Giants this summer after a year in San Francisco, regains his old job.
The most closely watched competition in training camp was between incumbent punter Matt Dodge and former New York Jets punter Steve Weatherford. Both performed well in camp, but the Giants elected to go with the more experienced Weatherford.
"That was a tough, tough decision," Coughlin said. "It was a tough call and a difficult thing to talk to Matt. He responded in a class manner and made it very easy. ... I think in training camp, neither punter really missed a punt. Some weren't as good as others. They both did an outstanding job and it was not an easy decision to make. I think Matt will continue to grow and develop and I think he'll punt in this league -- probably punt for a very long time."
In other moves on offense, the Giants parted ways with quarterback Ryan Perrilloux, running backs Andre Brown and Charles Scott, wide receivers Michael Clayton and Darius Reynaud, tight ends Daniel Coats and Christian Hopkins, tackles Jarriel King and Jamon Meredith, guard Ikechuku Ndukwe, and centers Jim Cordle and Chris White.
On defense, in addition to the two linebackers mentioned above, the Giants said goodbye to defensive ends Alex Hall, Dwayne Hendricks, Craig Marshall, Ayanaga Okpokowuruk and Justin Trattou, defensive tackle Gabe Watson, and defensive backs Joe Burnett, David Sims and Jerrard Tarrant. Safety Brian Jackson was waived/injured.
Coughlin said this cutdown day was difficult, as usual.
"Some of the guys are really hurt," Coughlin said. "Some of them were shocked. This is a day when their expectations -- you teach them to aim high and they pretty much all aimed high. There was some reality there, too. When you tell them that this time around, unfortunately, it's not going to work, it's a difficult thing. It's part of the business. I've done it for a lot of years. We do things as a team here. It doesn't get any easier. It's not as pleasant a day as some. But it has to be done."
Kieran Darcy is a staff writer for ESPNNewYork.com.
Mark Herzlich has defied the odds and made his NFL dreams come true.