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Cut Day Tough On Steve Wilks And Players

Roster must be pared down to 53 by Saturday at 1 p.m.

Coach Steve Wilks watching his players during Thursday night's game against the Broncos.
Coach Steve Wilks watching his players during Thursday night's game against the Broncos.

There are some really cool things about being an NFL head coach.

Cutting players is not one of them.

Steve Wilks is experiencing for the first time what so many dread as he pares down the Cardinals' roster from 90 to 53 players. All the decisions must be in by 1 p.m. Arizona time on Saturday and the process is taking its toll on Wilks.

"Everything is about relationships to me," Wilks said. "You build that over time, and it's not all about football. You get to know them as a person, as a man, as a father, as a husband. It's difficult when you tell them that you're moving on. That part has been tough."

While Wilks declined to get into specifics, names of players getting released have started to trickle out. Linebacker Scooby Wright did not make the roster, according to NFL Network. Wright, a former University of Arizona standout, joined the Cardinals in December of 2016.

Sixth-round pick Chris Campbell was reportedly released, as were tight end Alec Bloom and running back Darius Victor.

Wilks did confirm undrafted free agent kicker Matt McCrane's tweet that he was released. McCrane didn't miss a kick in the preseason as he pushed veteran incumbent Phil Dawson for the job.

"Matt did a tremendous job, and I told him that," Wilks said. "I wanted to try to give him every opportunity to showcase his talent for other teams. A lot of times you saw us going for long field goals because we believed in him. When you have a veteran guy like Phil, who I think is consistent, who has really proven himself over the years, it's tough at that position, because all you have is that one guy. I foresee Matt competing and kicking for someone in the National Football League this year."

Wilks said he is still evaluating the wide receiver room, which could be one of the toughest to sort. Undrafted rookie Trent Sherfield led the team with two catches for 44 yards Thursday night and seems to be in the mix for a spot. On defense, safety Zeke Turner is another undrafted rookie making a push after a great game against the Broncos.

"I'm excited when guys can show up like that," Wilks said. "And it shows that we've done a tremendous job in the evaluation process as well."

The Cardinals must make a decision on injured players Markus Golden (knee) and Jermaine Gresham (Achilles) by the roster deadline. They are both on the physically unable to perform list, and if they stay there, neither can play for the first six weeks of the season.

Wilks sounded optimistic about their activations.

"I think those guys should be ready to go, based on our conversations the last couple of weeks," Wilks said. "Talking to the players personally, they feel like they're ready. We'll see exactly where we are on Monday."

Even when the Cardinals cut down to 53, the back end of the roster figures to be fluid as waiver claims are placed on players released by other teams. A 10-player practice squad will also need to be built, which is something Wilks doesn't take lightly.

"The term I try to use with the coaches is 'developmental squad,' meaning that we're coaching future starters," Wilks said. "The biggest thing we want to make sure we do when we have injuries is that we can pull from the practice squad first."

Images from the fourth preseason game on Thursday night at University of Phoenix Stadium