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Kliff Kingsbury Seeks To Make The Kindest Cut After Preseason

After own career, Cardinals coach understands emotions of paring roster

Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury tries to talk to each player who is released from the roster.
Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury tries to talk to each player who is released from the roster.

The cuts usually come as a steady stream as training camp progresses, whenever a team is active churning the bottom part of the roster.

Then comes the flood at the end of the preseason, the spot the Cardinals will be in next week trimming the roster from 80 to 53 following the cancellation of the Cardinals-Saints game in New Orleans.

However many players might have their dream die (or at least postponed) with that decision, Kliff Kingsbury makes sure he's a part of the farewell.

"I was cut seven or eight times, and you remember that," the Cardinals' coach said. "A kind word and appreciation for the work, that doesn't take a lot of time."

The loss of the final preseason game takes away some opportunity for players deep in the roster. Wide receiver Andy Isabella seems to have a spot on the team, but having missed so much time with two Covid list stints, a game to play in New Orleans wouldn't have hurt. What will the Cards decide to do with the third running back spot? Have rookie cornerback Tay Gowan or rookie defensive lineman Victor Dimukeje done enough on special teams to stick? Is this the year defensive lineman Michael Dogbe gets a call to the 53?

By now, General Manager Steve Keim and the rest of the personnel department have been mulling the 53-man roster for weeks. Kingsbury said there are still some decisions to be made at the "back end" of most position groups.

"There is a lot of input that goes into it," Kingsbury said. "Steve and I, and the personnel department and the coaches have a great relationship. They don't want to bring in a player we are hard set against, because usually that doesn't work out, and vice versa, really. Lots of communication. Ultimately it's Steve's call and we all know that but he wants feedback, he wants input."

For all the conversation about whether the preseason games matter for the starters, they most certainly do matter for the players constantly fighting for roster spots, if not on the Cardinals somewhere in the NFL.

"I'm taking every day as preparation, not only to make the roster for this team but to put the best film I can show out there for the league to see," running back Jonathan Ward said

For those that don't, Kingsbury wants to play a role – something not all coaches do.

"The ones that talk to you and the ones that didn't, you definitely remember that," Kingsbury said, adding, "Just being there, I remember what it meant to me. Just acknowledge, 'Hey, I appreciate it and good luck.' "

It isn't some blanket goodbye either. Kingsbury said he always wants to make sure it's a personal message, one that is specific about what can be improved upon.

Some of the players will end up sticking around on the practice squad – which remains at 16 this season, with six veteran slots available – but it doesn't make the acceptance of being cut easy.

"You never know what's going to happen, but you make sure they are staying ready," Kingsbury said. "That life is not very glamorous when you get on that circuit, trying out for teams every week. I've lived it, so I definitely have some empathy."