Everyone wants to live life by their own terms. Why wouldn’t NFL players? It is never easy when told that: “the team is going in a different direction” or “we no longer need your services.” Much like being fired from a job, an immediate reaction sets in and it isn’t always one of higher ground.
Recent roster cuts by the New York Football Giants have elicited mostly gracious statements from those athletes who are no longer on said roster. Moving forward as a “former” can take its toll on the pride of these guys. Anger is the first emotional response and revenge is something that is obviously most sought-after. The fact that football on a professional level is a business…well, that just is the last thing a bruised ego wants to hear.
Back when Bill Parcells told tight end Mark Bavaro that his knee wasn’t going to hold up much longer, to when Dan Reeves cut Super Bowl XXI MVP quarterback Phil Simms in favor of Dave Brown, to Jim Fassel sending defensive backfield favorite cornerback Jason Sehorn packing, there has been and always will be a bit more to the stories.
Offensive lineman Luke Petitgout was another starter that fell to injury, and eventually the Giants’ roster cut monster in February 2007. A month later, he signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but finished his only season there on injured reserve after he tore his ACL in week four. Tampa Bay subsequently released him in August of 2008.
Petitgout recently sat down with the New York Post and revealed how he felt as one of General Manager Jerry Reese’s first crucial cuts of older/injury-prone players in 2007.
“It’s a machine," Petitgout told The Post. “Players think they have the power and the leverage. It’s the team. It never stops. It spits people out left and right."
#77 clearly had some animosity about the “corporate” aspect of football and how Reese was conducting blue business. Of course, shock was the immediate feeling, followed by some resentment.
“He’s basically getting rid of the guys before they expire, so to speak," Petitgout said. “They’re always looking for younger, cheaper – just like getting new tires on your car."
Luke Petitgout was a first-round draft pick out of Notre Dame in 1999 and not only played, but started for them (all over the offensive line) until 2006, when he was released. If you all remember, #77 broke his leg late in the ‘06 season, but chose not to have surgery at that time on his chronically-hurt back. With another two years on his contract, he was cut and the Giants saved on his $5 million-a-year contract. Petitgout claims he’s over the ill will.
“The Giants are a family. It’s something tough to accept, like when a girlfriend dumps you. They know when your time is up. Some guys may buck the trend and have a good couple years after that but if you’ve been there a long time, they know your medical history, they know your aches and pains, they usually make the right decision," he said.
As time passes, with it comes a period to reflect on what has transpired. Eventually, clarity comes though as the cloudy ego has diminished. The New York Giants aren’t a team that does their players dirty; the organization does what is necessary to attain the goal of Lombardi trophy.
“I basically had a time bomb in my back and when I went to Tampa it went off. The Giants knew what they were doing. I was mad at the time, I harbored some ill will for a while," Petitgout said. “Time has healed everything. My time with the Giants, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I wasn’t exactly Mary Poppins on my way out. I think that’s just because I love the Giants. That’s really what the bottom line is. It hurts a player to the soul. It’s like back to the playground days of the last guy to get picked, that kind of deal."
Once a Giant, Always a Giant. Wellington Mara’s words seem to strike deep chords in players that spend a good number of their career in blue.
Also…Bill Parcells, Dan Reeves, Football, Jerry Reese, Luke Petitgout, Mark Bavaro, New York, New York Giants, NFL, Phil Simms, Wellington Mara