FOXBORO, Mass. — There was a strange type of atmosphere in the Patriots' locker room Thursday night after their preseason finale against the Giants.
A large majority of the room was glad to put the preseason to rest as they officially transitioned into a regular-season mentality. But the rest of the Patriots were unsure of themselves and the things to come in the next day or two.
The Patriots must trim their roster from 80 to 53 by Saturday afternoon, which meant 27 players in the room were destined for injured reserve or the unemployment line, where the reality checks are tougher to deposit than the game checks.
There was a somber feeling in some quadrants of the locker room, particularly in the areas that were heavy with undrafted rookies. Some players were reminiscing about their time as teammates while being realistic that it was coming to an end. Others just stared straight through their lockers for what seemed like an eternity.
"These are stressful days coming up," safety Josh Barrett said. "You just want to relax. That's why these games are so important to put your best foot forward, just so that whatever the case is, whatever the coach's decision is, you feel like you've done and given your best to secure your spot. But it's the coaches' decision. They'll do a good job of getting this team together."
The players will report Friday for meetings and workouts. Some of them will be informed of their release almost immediately, while others might get the bad news later in the day. A handful more will learn their fate Saturday.
While there's some room for celebration when Saturday's deadline passes, the survivors know it doesn't mean they'll be on the team for the long haul. Last year on this weekend, the Patriots acquired safety Jarrad Page, linebacker Tracy White and tackle Steve Maneri on Sunday, when linebacker Tyrone McKenzie was released. Two years ago, Sunday of roster-cut weekend was when Richard Seymour was traded to the Raiders.
"We’ll do the best we can to make up the team and put together the best squad we can," Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said. "There’s always a lot of player movement this time of the season. Last year, we traded for Tracy White, and we weren't even talking about him after the game last year, so things like that happen. Who knows? I don't know."
It's likely that safety James Sanders, defensive lineman Ty Warren and tight end Alge Crumpler were the biggest names who were cut already during the preseason, but there are some other marquee candidates who could get released or traded, including safety Brandon Meriweather, who appears to be safe but has been around New England long enough to see plenty of unpredictable things go down.
"Coach is going to do whatever he thinks is best for the team, and everybody else has just got to live with it," Meriweather said.
Defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth has proven himself enough to avoid the chopping block, but his arrival — along with Shaun Ellis, Andre Carter and others — will mean someone else will lose their job. Guys like Landon Cohen and Darryl Richard have played well on the defensive line, but they're stuck on a depth chart with a handful of Pro Bowlers.
Haynesworth said he'd give the younger guys advice to pull through it and try to succeed on the other side.
"If that happens, don't take it to heart," Haynesworth said. "Go out there and play your game, and as long as you showed it on film, everybody is going to recognize that and you'll get picked up. You'll get another job somewhere else."