Out the door in 20 minutes: What it's like to get cut in the NFL

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Tim Masthay said his goodbyes and walked out of Lambeau Field on Tuesday afternoon. Halfway to his truck in the players' parking lot, he reached into his pocket and realized he forget his iPhone.

On his way back to the stadium, a thought hit him.

"I wondered if they had already canceled my code to get into the building," Masthay said.

The veteran punter realized that's how fast things can change in the NFL. A half-hour earlier, he was relaxing in the players' lounge with kicker Mason Crosby and long snapper Rick Lovato, waiting for the special teams meeting to start. Thirty-minutes later, he was carrying out his possessions -- some cleats and a few personal items from his locker -- in a backpack after the Green Bay Packers cut him.

"The tough thing to process is I was in a place for 6½ years," Masthay said as he described his firing during an interview with ESPN.com. "I was a part of a lot of great teams there, a lot of wins, knew everybody, had close bonds and friendships with a ton of people. And I was out the door in 20 to 30 minutes."

Masthay was able to get back inside one last time and retrieve his phone so he could tell his wife, Amanda, the bad news.

"I felt bad for her because I called her a couple of times," Masthay said. "She was at our daughter's meet-your-teacher night at her preschool, so she missed my calls. I didn't want to talk to anyone until I had talked to her, so I sent her a text message so she knew what was going on instead of just seeing all these missed phone calls."

The text was simple and direct: Hey, I just got cut.

"Does that sound insensitive?" Masthay said.

The whole process, in a way, sounds insensitive, although Masthay, like most players, understands that's the way it is.

'Is it that time?'

When Masthay saw Tim Terry, the Packers assistant director of pro personnel, walk into the players' lounge on Tuesday, he had a bad feeling.

"I certainly was not expecting to be cut," Masthay said. "But I also knew it was the deadline day for cut-downs to 75, so I knew it was not beyond the realm of possibility."

The way Masthay remembers it, he was hanging out in the lounge reading a book or looking at his iPad when Terry arrived, although he admitted it's still somewhat hazy in his mind.

But he recalls exactly what Terry said: Hey, they want to see you upstairs.

"I knew what it meant and I asked Tim, 'Is it that time?' He kind of nodded and said, 'Yeah, I think so.' "

Masthay doesn't hold anything against Terry. He knows he's merely the messenger.

"That's a tough job those guys have," Masthay said. "I don't envy that, especially with guys that have been there a long time, because that's not an easy thing for them."

Meeting with McCarthy

Not long after Mike McCarthy became the Packers coach in 2006, he decided he would try to meet with every player who was cut.

"The only thing that's different is the conversations are a little different because they're always specific to the individual," McCarthy said this week. "So that part of the business hasn't changed and won't ever change from my perspective. We've spent a lot of time with these young men starting in April, and some of these guys in May. So I don't look forward to [cuts] when we make those decisions."

Masthay knew about the meetings, but he didn't know it would be anything more than a formality.

"I was very pleased I got 5, 10 minutes with coach McCarthy," Masthay said. "He wanted to see me before I left. I had a great talk with him. It was truly a pleasure getting to be one of his players for this long. I think he's a tremendous head coach, great guy. I'm glad I was one of his players for as long as I was."

Commiserating with the Crosbys

On his way out, Masthay stopped to chat again briefly with Crosby and Lovato. He said goodbye to Lovato and then made plans to get together with Crosby, his best friend on the team, later that evening.

"He and I chatted for several hours that night," Masthay said. "Mason and I and Molly, his wife, we all sat around talking for a while. We didn't know what there was to say. We just knew we wanted to at least be in each other's company. We talked about a million different thing -- some of it football-related, some of it not. But that's tough. I had a close bond with a lot of guys, but Mason and [former long snapper] Brett [Goode] ..."

And then Masthay started to get emotional.

"Well, you know what it's like," he said.

Amanda was back in Kentucky with their three kids; their infant daughter Darcy was due on Aug. 26 but was born 10 weeks premature, so she and kids remained at their offseason home in Lexington. It was just as hard for her, if not harder.

"Tim has a thicker skin than I do," she said.

Abrupt ending

Masthay had been cut once before -- as a 22-year-old rookie with the Indianapolis Colts in 2009. He didn't even make it to the first preseason game.

Back then, however, he saw it coming.

"This was a vastly different experience," Masthay said. "Even though I knew it could be coming, just the abruptness of it. And then it happened on a day I wasn't expecting. If it had happened on [final cuts on] Saturday, it would've felt a little different.


"I don't know."