Tom Musick: Bears on fringe cling to hope
LAKE FOREST – One year ago this Saturday, Armando Allen got the call.
He climbed the steps to the second floor of Halas Hall. He sat down in Lovie Smith’s office. He listened quietly to the message that he knew by then was coming.
The Bears had made their final cuts, and Allen was one of them.
“It was a quick meeting,” said Allen, a versatile running back who played at Notre Dame. “You don’t want a long meeting. You kind of discuss where things went wrong, and also what you can do to make you a better player. Nothing over-exaggerated.”
Nothing fun, either.
The Bears will cut almost two dozen players between now and 5 p.m. Saturday, when the NFL requires all of its teams to establish a 53-man roster for the regular season. Some of the released players will rejoin the Bears as part of an eight-man practice squad, but most will return home and hope their agent can help them find another shot at their dream.
Already, the 75 remaining Bears have outlasted hundreds of peers across the league.
The Bears’ roster featured 90 players when training camp started more than a month ago in Bourbonnais. After occasional roster moves during camp – drop an extra kicker, sign an extra tight end – the first round of cuts arrived this week as 15 players were let go.
Defensive end Aston Whiteside was not among them.
“You notice a lot of guys are gone,” said Whiteside, who played at Abilene Christian. “But other than that, they’ve still got the music playing and things like that.
“The first day they make the cuts, everybody looks around to see who’s been cut. But then it goes right back to normal.”
Maybe not everyday normal, but football normal, where lots of talented people lose jobs.
Few situations mirror the NFL. Imagine another example of a company recruiting an employee, spending months to train that employee, and then firing that employee upon the conclusion of that training.
“I can’t think of any,” Allen said. “Can you?”
Look past the star players, and the Bears’ locker room is filled with football survivors. Allen was drafted by Tampa Bay, cut by Tampa Bay, signed by the Bears, cut by the Bears and signed by the Bears. Whiteside was signed by Dallas, cut by Dallas, signed by the Bears, cut by the Bears and signed by the Bears.
How about the journey of fourth-year fullback Tony Fiammetta? He was drafted by Carolina, cut by Carolina, signed by Dallas, cut by Dallas, signed by New England, cut by New England and signed by the Bears.
Along the way, Fiammetta has started 17 games in the NFL and appeared in 17 others. Now, he’s trying to earn one of the final spots on the Bears’ 53-man roster.
“I think just to get to the league, you have to be a survivor, just to endure the sport itself,” Fiammetta said. “You’ve got to be a strong-minded person to play the game.”
And if you get cut, Fiammetta said, you use the experience to reflect and improve.
“Experiencing that, going through adversity, makes you reassess where you are in your life, and it makes you appreciate what you have,” Fiammetta said. “After going through being cut, I definitely appreciate the game more. I think I’ve learned a lot from it.”
That said, Fiammetta hopes that his phone stays silent this week.
“No news,” he said, “is good news.”
• Northwest Herald sports columnist Tom Musick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter