CFL Insider: Behind the Scenes of CFL Cut Day

TORONTO, ON - MAY 27: Argonauts quarterback Ricky Ray (15) during the opening day of Argo training camp at York University, May 27, 2015. Focus will be on Ricky Ray and what his status is coming off shoulder surgery. (Andrew Francis Wallace/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

Welcome to LWOS CFL Insider with former CFL quarterback Tanner Marsh. This season, get weekly content from someone who has played in the league, only at LWOS.

Inside CFL Cut Day

The dreaded Cut Day has come and passed with every team announcing their final 72-man roster and the limited practice roster spots. To fans, it is a long-awaited day filled with excitement as they can finally see how their team will be shaping up on the field for game one. For the players, it is a rollercoaster of emotions, and a lot—I mean a lot—of waiting around and staring at your phone, hoping to figure out the news of what and where you will be in the next 24 hours.

This feeling does depend on if you are a first-year rookie or a third-year vet. Either way, it is filled with sadness and excitement. From personal experience, I am going to explain how such a simple day can completely change your life or make you rethink everything you have ever worked and dreamed for. Every team’s experience during this time is different, so keep in mind this is speaking from my CFL experience on Cut Day.

The Rookie Experience

After the second game of the preseason, the team houses everyone at a hotel. You wake up and are told to go down to the lobby and wait until you get a call from your coach. At this point you are filed into an area of roughly 100 football players, each hoping they did enough to impress their team for a chance to continue their dream. This is where the emotions start to go crazy; guys slowly get called in to see their coaches.

As one comes out yelling out of joy and excitement someone else follows, crying. This is truly the moment you realize that you are no longer playing the game you loved back in peewee but are now part of a business that has to make decisions that do not always have your best interest in mind. For the players who are on the border of being released or hopefully assigned to special teams, this day is tough. You just battled and bonded with dozens of other men, developed a relationship with some, spent time living in the dorms and studying playbooks.

Then on this day, you see every single one of their lives change, either for good or bad. Even for those who get the call to be a part of the team, you still have to sit around and see some of the guys you grew close with have to call their loved ones and let them know they are coming home. You train all off-season for the news you will receive on this day.

The Veteran Experience

For veterans, Cut Day is a little different. You have been there so as a vet you understand the process and the gut-wrenching emotions that the day brings. Some vets, depending on how many years they have played, do not even show up at the hotel; they simply wait for the call. Now, vets are usually in a safer position with respect to being released because of their role on the team. The struggle with veterans is that they are not only battling for their position, but they are also playing against the cap and the money they’re worth as a player. When you sign to a larger contract deal you have to perform up to par with that deal and what it is worth to the team. The challenge here lies in the fact that the standards can be based off the salary cap and what other vets are making around you. Herein is where it truly becomes more of a business than a true competition based off of skills. A prime example of this would be the Saskatchewan Roughriders having to cut three top receivers in order to keep around the others.

This to me is when the Canadian Football League really shows how different it is than the National Football League. Not only do they have to find great American players and reward them with a good enough contract, but they also have to manage the Canadian talent and how their contracts play out.

Either way, Cut Day is just as bad for either side. It is an exciting day for few and a devastating day for others. Nonetheless, it goes to show you that underneath the football helmet and jersey sales there is a human being that has survived the Cut Day for one more season.

Congratulations to the guys that made one of the nine teams. And to the rest of you, keep your head up and keep working towards your dream.

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