The road to a final NFL roster each August is a mean street. For NFL veterans in their third or fourth stop and hoping for one last grasp at glory, the ride all too often ends with the gruesome sound of the axe dropping on their pro football careers.
Such was the fate of Bears veterans Devin Aromashodu, Tom Zbikowski, Kyle Moore, Leonard Pope when the Bears announced their first round of training camp cuts on their way to the 75-player roster limit.
What is particularly painful for these four is the knowledge they weren’t axed because the Bears have better players at their positions, they took the fall because the Bears have younger and lesser-known players on the roster.
Anyone who’s been with the team since training camp began knows it would be wrong to say Marquess Wilson and Joe Anderson are clearly better than Aromashodu today. Brandon Hardin may not even be as good as Zbikowski. Cornelius Washington clearly is not as prepared to contribute today as Moore; and Fendi Onobun, Steve Maneri and Kyle Adams could all still learn a lesson or two from Pope.
The reason these four veterans got their walking papers is because their “ceilings” have been reached and we know we’ve seen the best that each has to offer.
The younger players they leave behind had two big advantages over the veterans in their roster battles and the older guys knew it from the time camp began. Every one of the younger guys may still have a higher, perhaps much higher, ceiling.
If they’re not as good today as the veterans who’ve been sent away, there is still the chance they’ll be better than those players ever were with more time to develop.
To be clear, any of Wilson, Anderson, Harden, Washington, Onobun, Maneri and Adams could be sent packing as soon as this Friday or Saturday. But even if it’s just a few more days, the organization’s investment of time and resources is better spent on them than the veterans they’ve outlasted.
Advantage number two for many in the younger group is this coaching staff and front office has an investment in them it did not have in the others.
Phil Emery spent draft choices on Hardin, Washington and Wilson and as such they will get extra consideration. As an undrafted gem Emery discovered last year, Anderson will get the benefit of the doubt as well.
Fair or not, that’s life in the NFL. I asked Aromashodu the other day if having been through the process multiple times it ever get any easier. “You get to understand the process a little better, I guess you can cope with whatever happens a little better from having been through it but it’s pretty much the same feeling, you just understand it better.”
I couldn’t shake the feeling he saw the handwriting on the wall when I asked him how the competition looks and he told me “Marquess Wilson is definitely doing a god job as a young player and I think he’s stepping up and doing what the coaches expect of him.”
Therein lies the rub. The younger less experienced players just need to do what’s expected of them to hang around. Journeymen veterans have to make themselves indispensable and Aromashodu, Zbikowski, Moore and Pope couldn’t.
Moore appeared to have the best chance of this group of sticking, consistently running with the twos and at times the ones in practice. But Washington is a freak of an athlete and classic underachiever in college who if the light goes on could eventually be a difference maker. Moore was never going to beat him out if all he offered was a dependable if not spectacular number four at defensive end.
Could any of the four veterans still catch on elsewhere? Sure, there’s always a chance. But the outcome is likely to be the same while the young Bears they leave behind can still dream big, at least for a few more days.
• Hub Arkush covers the Bears for Shaw Media and HubArkush.com. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.