Surprises abound as teams make final cuts to rosters
By Sam Farmer
Los Angeles Times
By Sam Farmer
NFL coaches, gearing up for the start of the regular season, whittled their rosters to 53 players over the weekend. Most of the cuts were obvious rookies who were not drafted and who only played in garbage time of exhibition games, over-the-hill veterans hoping to stretch their careers one last season but some cuts we never saw coming.
FIVE SURPRISING CUTS
Byron Leftwich, QB, Jacksonville The seventh overall pick in the 2003 draft never made it through a complete season and sat out 15 games in the past two years. The final straw was when David Garrard outplayed him in training camp.
Cory Schlesinger, FB, Miami A three-time Pro Bowl alternate, Schlesinger lined up with the first-team offense all summer and was slated to be the starter. In the end, though, the Dolphins preferred 270-pound rookie Reagan Mauia, who used to be a 380-pound nose guard at Hawai'i.
Buster Davis, LB, Arizona It isn't often that a team parts ways with a third-round pick, but the Cardinals gave up on a player they had signed to a three-year, $1.7 million deal. They're on the hook for his $610,000 bonus. Coaches say he wasn't the player he seemed to be on tape.
Donovin Darius, S, Oakland Darius, a Jacksonville castoff who averaged more than 100 tackles over his nine-year career, was supposed to bring a hard-hitting attitude on the field and leadership in the locker room. He was slowed by a calf injury, though, and couldn't unseat Stuart Schweigert for the starting free-safety spot.
Quentin Moses, DE, Oakland Moses, the first pick of the third round in April, was competing for the starting right end job, but was lost in the shuffle when the Raiders began moving defensive linemen around. Tommy Kelly moved from defensive tackle to end, and claimed the job on the right side. That came after the Raiders acquired defensive tackle Gerard Warren from Denver.
FIVE SURPRISING SURVIVORS
Troy Smith, QB, Baltimore Winning a Heisman Trophy is no guarantee a quarterback can make it in the pros (see: Jason White, Eric Crouch, Danny Wuerffel ... ). But the Ravens like the attitude they see in Smith, if not his 51.6 passer rating this summer.
Kenton Keith, RB, Indianapolis Keith, formerly of the Saskatchewan Roughriders, has never had an NFL carry in a regular-season game, but that didn't scare off the Colts. They felt good enough about him to release DeDe Dorsey, backup to starting running back Joseph Addai.
Sav Rocca, P, Philadelphia The Eagles released Dirk Johnson, their punter the past four seasons, to make room for Rocca, a former Australian football player. The reason? Rocca had a net average of 38.9 yards on his punts this summer; Johnson's average was 34.8.
Gary Baxter, CB, Cleveland Baxter is a seasoned veteran, so it wouldn't be so surprising that the Browns would keep him around ... except that he's coming off two torn knee tendons, and a comeback like that would be unprecedented. He didn't participate in contact drills or play in exhibition games this summer.
Chris Wilson, DE, Washington The Redskins' defensive line is in the middle of a youth movement. The emergence of Wilson, who played for Division II Northwood University and in the Canadian Football League, allowed the team to release respected veteran Renaldo Wynn.
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Thursdays game, Hawai'i time
New Orleans at Indianapolis, 2:30 p.m.
Atlanta at Minnesota, 7 a.m.
Miami at Washington, 7 a.m.
Denver at Buffalo, 7 a.m.
Kansas City at Houston, 7 a.m.
Carolina at St. Louis, 7 a.m.
New England at N.Y. Jets, 7 a.m.
Philadelphia at Green Bay, 7 a.m.
Pittsburgh at Cleveland, 7 a.m.
Tennessee at Jacksonville, 7 a.m.
Detroit at Oakland, 10:15 a.m.
Chicago at San Diego, 10:15 a.m.
Tampa Bay at Seattle, 10:15 a.m.
N.Y. Giants at Dallas, 2:15 p.m.
Baltimore at Cincinnati, 1 p.m.
Arizona at San Francisco, 4:15 p.m.
Sunday, Sept. 16
Buffalo at Pittsburgh, 7 a.m.
Indianapolis at Tennessee, 7 a.m.
Green Bay at N.Y. Giants, 7 a.m.
Houston at Carolina, 7 a.m.
San Francisco at St. Louis, 7 a.m.
Cincinnati at Cleveland, 7 a.m.
New Orleans at Tampa Bay, 7 a.m.
Atlanta at Jacksonville, 7 a.m.
Dallas at Miami, 10:05 a.m.
Minnesota at Detroit, 10:05 a.m.
Seattle at Arizona, 10:05 a.m.
Kansas City at Chicago, 10:15 a.m.
N.Y. Jets at Baltimore, 10:15 a.m.
Oakland at Denver, 10:15 a.m.
San Diego at New England, 2:15 p.m.
Monday, Sept. 17
Washington at Philadelphia, 2:30 p.m.
Oct. 16 Trading deadline.
Oct. 22-24 Fall meeting, Philadelphia.
Dec. 29-30 Regular season ends.
Jan. 5-6 Wild-card playoffs.
Jan. 12-13 Divisional playoffs.
Jan. 20 Conference championships.
Feb. 3 Super Bowl at Glendale, Ariz.
Feb. 10 Pro Bowl at Honolulu.
Feb. 20-26 NFL scouting combine, Indianapolis.
March 30-April 3 NFL annual meeting, Palm Beach, Fla.
April 26-27 NFL draft, New York.
May 19-21 NFL spring meeting, Atlanta.