The Indianapolis Colts made three roster moves Tuesday to trim the roster to the league-mandated 75 active players. The Colts waived-injured wide receiver Nathan Palmer, placed safety John Boyett on the Reserve/Non-Football Injury list and moved linebacker Josh McNary to an exempt status on the roster.
If Palmer clears waivers, he will revert to the Colts Injured Reserve list. McNary's exemption is under the Reserve/Military rules where the player reported after June 1, 2013 and has not played in any preseason games.
But the big roster cut is still coming this weekend, when the Colts have to reduce to 53 players on Saturday. The Colts wrap up the preseason in Cincinnati Thursday at 7:00 p.m. against the Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium.
The final preseason game is not for Andrew Luck, or Reggie Wayne, or Cory Redding. The Colts starters don't need any more dress rehearsals. This game is for players you don't know yet, guys just trying to survive. Like number 26, Delano Howell, a free agent safety from Stanford.
"For the young guys, for guys that are trying to prove something and claim a spot, this is the game we've been looking forward to," said Howell. "There's going to be a lot of opportunity, a lot of snaps. All the young guys, people that are fighting to earn a spot are going to be taking advantage of it."
Howell leads the Colts with 14 tackles in the preseason. He has seen extensive action while starter Laron Landry nursed a knee injury. Howell's production stands out when the Colts have to make difficult roster choices.
"We've created so much competition," said Colts head coach Chuck Pagano. "We're deeper across the board at all positions, so we're going to have to let some really good football players go. They'll end up on other teams like everybody else's guys. It's going to be tough."
There are several steps for a player to make it from training camp to the regular season. The training camp roster starts at 90 players, then drops to 75, and finally 53 before the Colts open the season at Lucas Oil Stadium against the Oakland Raiders on September 8th at 1:00 p.m. A huge picture of Colts rush linebacker Robert Mathis decorates the stadium entrance. But Mathis remembers sweating bullets 10 years ago as a little known rookie out of Alabama A&M.
"Ah, yes, the infamous Cincinnati fourth preseason game," recalled Mathis. "It's make or break if you are going to make the squad or not. It means a lot. If you want to make the squad, you have to put a good showing together."
Colts rookie tight end Justice Cunningham is Mr. Irrelevant, the last pick (254th overall) in this year's NFL draft. He hopes Thursday is not his last game with the Colts.
"Of course, there are nerves," admitted Cunningham. "Nobody is guaranteed, especially the rookies that came in this year. You just have to go in there and show what you can do and give it all you got. At the end of the day, hopefully it's the best and can help you make the team."
This last preseason game is very relevant for players like Mr. Irrelevant.