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Cut-down days put pressure on Patriots.

Byline: Rich Garven

It's business as usual for the Patriots this week as the preseason comes to a close with Wednesday's game against the Giants. It's also a time of unusually high stress in a business with an unrelenting, unending and unfathomable level of daily pressure.

That's because the Patriots, along with the other 31 teams in the NFL, must reduce their roster from a maximum of 90 players to no more than 75 by 4 p.m. today. On Friday, a second round of cuts will take place that leaves teams with 53 players.

By the end of the week, somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,100 players will be looking for work.

"Obviously we all know what's at stake, and we understand that this is an unfortunate part of the profession," receiver/special teamer Matthew Slater said yesterday during a conference call from Gillette Stadium. "It's a numbers game, and you have to get down to a certain amount of guys, but the atmosphere is no different than it usually is around here. We have a sense of urgency at all times.

"Every day you walk into this, there's a sense of urgency. Obviously guys understand what's at stake and understand what's up for grabs, but we have to go out and continue to do our job and take advantage of every day that we have here."

Slater knows that as well as anyone.

A fifth-round pick of the Patriots in 2008, he was unimpressive as a rookie and was injured for nearly the entire summer of his sophomore season. He looked like a certain cut, but somehow survived - no doubt thanks to his blistering speed - and last year was named a team captain and a Pro Bowler.

"What I learned early in my career is not to think about it and just go out and continue to do my job and try to focus on what I had to do," Slater said. "Really, at the end of the day, if I put forth my best effort, that was all I could control. It's tough worrying about things that you can't control because it can consume you.

"I just learned not to play the numbers game and just go out and try to take advantage of each and every day that you have here and hope for the best from there."

The Patriots currently have 85 players on their roster, meaning they have to shed 10 today to meet the league's approval. Making cuts is the obvious route, although season-ending injured reserve and trades are other avenues.

The players likely to get released today will most likely be faceless names to most fans, although a notable veteran or two could be whacked. When that occurs, it's often considered a courtesy since it allows him a few extra days to latch on with another team.

Getting down to 53 Friday is when the real carnage takes place. The Patriots have a number of prominent players who are considered to be on the bubble, including center Dan Koppen and receivers Donte' Stallworth and Deion Branch.

"I think one of the worst parts of this business of playing football is those two cutdown dates," defensive back Devin McCourty said. "The guys have come in and worked hard every day, putting their best foot forward and letting the chips fall where they may.

"I remember when my (twin) brother (Jason) was in the same spot as a sixth-round draft pick, and I remember encouraging him. I told him that he did everything he could, worked hard, so whatever happens, he should be happy with the effort he put forth."

Jason McCourty made the Titans in 2009, worked his way into the starting lineup at cornerback and was rewarded with a five-year extension worth $43 million earlier this month. The two brothers will stage a reunion of sorts when the Patriots open the season against the Titans on Sept. 9.

As a first-round draft pick who performed well from the get-go, Devin McCourty has never had to deal with the stress of cutdown dates. But Julian Edelman and Kyle Love have.

The Patriots selected Edelman in the seventh round in 2009 and then converted the collegiate quarterback into a receiver and returner. The transition was tricky and bumpy, but he showed enough to keep his job as a rookie.

"It's a stressful job, and that's part of it," Edelman said of roster cuts. "You know getting into this that it's a possibility. What I do is just worry about what I can control, being a better football player every day and taking coaching from the coaches and ultimately just trying to contribute and help this team win ballgames."

Love, who a year later made the Patriots as an undrafted rookie out of Mississippi State, offered similar advice. And now that he's an established starter, lining up next to veteran Vince Wilfork in the Patriots' four-man front, it's more of the same.

"Nothing really changes for me mentally," Love said. "I just want to keep doing my job and getting better ever day, working harder and playing harder and faster. So nothing has changed for me; I just want to continue doing what I'm doing, but doing it better."



CUTLINE: Julian Edelman
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Title Annotation:SPORTS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Aug 27, 2012
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