- Parker: Time to turn the page (6/28/11)
- Parker: Tiny's signing no small feat for UT (2/3/11)
- Parker: Has Young played his last snap for the Titans? (11/23/10)
- Parker: Cascade opponent has rich winning tradition (11/12/10)
- Parker: Vanderbilt's Caldwell delights (7/22/10)
- Parker: Vols' actions prove athletes aren't perfect (7/11/10)
- Parker: Late Series losing luster (11/5/09)
Parker: For some Titans, Thursday was the final shot
NASHVILLE -- No one ever said making it as a professional football player was easy.
The window for a career on the gridiron is narrow. Players must make the most of each and every opportunity provided. Signing bonuses and first-round picks allow for more time to develop but are by no means a guaranteed paycheck. See Russell, JaMarcus.
As players showered, dressed, packed and departed the Titans locker room inside LP Field following Thursday night's 27-24 preseason finale win over the New Orleans Saints, some knew it would be their final time.
Tennessee must cut its roster down to 53 players between now and Saturday. Players will be called into the facility at Baptist Sports Park for a meeting to find out which direction their life will take.
To say it can be a gut-wrenching time is putting it lightly.
The competition for the No. 3 spot at running back behind Chris Johnson and Javon Ringer leaves coach Jeff Fisher and his staff with a tough decision to make. Regardless of who makes it, someone talented is going to have to turn in their playbook.
"It can be as tough as you make it out to be, or it can be just another 48 hours," said Samkon Gado, who helped his cause with a 31-yard run and finished with 63 yards on 13 carries. "I'm just going to choose to think that I did the best I could. I worked hard with the opportunities that were given to me and the time that I had. I'll just leave it in the Lord's hands and see what happens from there."
As a five-year veteran, Gado's career transactions are checkered with verbs like signed, waived, traded, acquired, promoted and released (four times). Needless to say, he knows the drill.
Two others are in the race with Gado. Alvin Pearman averaged 6 yards a carry on six rushes and scored a touchdown. Rookie LeGarrette Blount showed worth in short-yardage situations by moving the pile on several occasions and totaled 59 rushing yards and a touchdown.
"You know how the game goes, the business goes -- whatever happens happens. But, whatever guys we bring back, I'm definitely going to be happy for them," said quarterback Vince Young, who consistently welcomed second and third stringers following scoring drives before they reached the sidelines. "The guys that we see off, I'm still going to stay in contact with them and definitely continue to keep motivating them."
Backing up Young on the depth chart is likely 16-year veteran Kerry Collins. The No. 3 spot is between Chris Simms and Rusty Smith.
"I don't know what they're thinking. I don't know exactly what they're looking for. So, I just did everything I could do to show them what I can do, and I hope it's enough," Smith said.
The rookie out of Florida Atlantic was only allowed three passing attempts on Thursday but completed two balls, including a 45-yard bomb to Dominique Edision.
"It's going to be very difficult (to sleep). I'm nervous, I'm anxious, I'm tired all at the same time. We'll see what happens," Smith said.
Cornerback Cortland Finnegan was extremely upset at his performance against the Saints in his first game back from injury. However, his roster spot is safe as an established player.
He admitted that it's never easy to see teammates depart after workouts in the summer sun throughout training camp.
"It's tough," Finnegan said. "It's almost, in a way, like you can't build friendships and that sucks. That's sort of where I've been the last year or two, just knowing when I go home I have a wife now that's my solid foundation cause friends in this thing come and go so much it's like, 'How do you have 'em?' There's really no loyalty in it."
While players drove off toward the interstate and away from the autograph seekers, some did so in a Lexus, others in Mercedes, and for about a dozen more, for the final time.
See more photos of the game by clicking here.