Dallas Cowboys Preseason: Highs and lows of an NFL rookie

Dallas Cowboys. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Dallas Cowboys. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) /

The Dallas Cowboys preseason starts Saturday. For rookies, it’s will be an emotional high, but unfortunately for most, it’s headed for a painful low.

The official start to the 2019 Dallas Cowboys season begins on Saturday with a preseason game against the San Francisco 49ers. Both teams, along with the other thirty NFL teams, will carry rosters of 90 players through all four preseason games.

Some of you may remember the days of cutting the roster to 75 prior to the last preseason game and then to 53 immediately following. As outlined in this ESPN.com update, that changed back in 2017, and now young players have longer to impress coaches and earn a roster spot or land on the practice squad.

Eventually, 37 players on each NFL team, or 1,184 total, will be cut prior to the regular season. Of those cut players, a total of 320 will fill the 10 man practice squads. So, in total, 864 players including draft picks, undrafted free agents, and veterans, will be out of the league when the regular season starts.

Now that the math lesson is over, let’s look beneath the numbers. We’re going to concentrate on a nice, round number of 500 rookies who will not be on a roster after the last preseason game.

First, lets start with the high. On Saturday, when the team runs out of the tunnel onto the field at Levi’s Stadium, the players be on an emotional high, but let’s consider those that support them.

Back in their hometowns, many of these guys are the greatest football players to ever lace up the cleats. They are legendary in Pop Warner, junior high, and high school and likely hold records that may never be broken.

Many of them come from small, rural areas that hold them up as the pride of their town and they would likely have personal stories worthy of an ESPN 30 for 30 special. These are supremely talented athletes who have known for years they would end up in the league.

Whether they play one minute or ten minutes, there will be close family and friends that will watch every move they make in these preseason games. They will have childhood friends and high school teammates telling stories in local barbershops about plays they saw them make, and there will be rivals telling stories of why it should be them in the league instead.

These players are coach’s kids, sons of pastors and teachers, they come from single parent homes, affluent homes, and some may be foster kids. They come from all types of backgrounds, but what they have in common is their ability to play football at the highest level.

Saturday will be a moment they can hold up as a lifelong achievement. They will run out on an actual NFL stadium a member of a professional football team. That is a high.

Unfortunately, this may be the highest it gets for some of these players. Immediately after the game, Dallas will follow suit with the other 31 teams in the league. They will begin maneuvering the roster which is a polite way of saying they will cut guys.

This will continue during the entire preseason, but on August 31st, when the teams have to be at 53 players, this is when the low comes. As I mentioned earlier, there are roughly 500 rookies that will never play football again.

Unless you’ve performed at that level, it may be difficult to put yourself in that player’s shoes. However, just imagine that player was your son, brother, cousin, or nephew. You would feel devastated for him.

In less than a month, this exact scenario will play out in communities all across the country. Young men who have been extremely successful when it comes to athletics will have to go home and face their families and hometown folks. Some will give comfort and the naysayers will say, I told you so.

Dare I say it, this is something most of us wouldn’t be ready to handle. These young men will be tempted by their worse impulses and hopefully their support systems are strong enough to keep them focused on moving on to the next chapter of life.

As we watch these games, we should keep this thought in the back of our minds. We love our Dallas Cowboys, and other fans love their teams too, albeit not as much, but these guys are more than just numbers running around on the field.

This Saturday is absolutely an exciting time for the players, their families, their communities, and all of Cowboys Nation. We will all be on a similar high because NFL football is back.

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Once we get to the regular season and the final cuts, just take a moment to think about those guys who didn’t make it and all the people affected. Those that get cut aren’t bums nor did they all of a sudden forget how to play football, but it’s a game of numbers and many of them will experience a low the had never considered.