The natural “Circle of Life” in the NFL is brief. When i retired after the ’91 season the average career length at that time was 3.2 years. It’s not much different today. Though i played 12 years, it seems now in the rearview mirror as a time that went all too fast.
Before Sunday night’s game against the New England Patriots kicked off I moved to the sidelines for the National Anthem. After i got rid of my radio head gear and came to attention, I found myself standing next to Jeff Reed. After the Anthem finished, Jeff leaned over and we kibitzed a moment and that was it. I had no idea that it would be the last night of his kicking for the Steelers. Today was the end of the line for Jeff’s with the Steelers as he was released.
Personally i’m going to miss Jeff. Enjoyable dude, funny sense of humor, and he did do a good amount of charitable functions around the area. I enjoyed meeting his parents, very nice people who hooked up from time to time with the Steelers entourage on the road.
Pro football is a tough business. Mike Tomlin is a results oriented guy. The bottom line is that nobody gets a free ride in this game. When your productivity drops off, so does your value.
And you do have to have a thick skin. I have personally witnessed some of the fans going after Jeff on the sidelines including a couple inebriated bozos who got their season tickets punched for their stupidity. But that’s part of the life of an NFL player.
I think back over the years of my career to the times i bid farewell to many teammates as they left Pittsburgh. And then of course, so did i. It’s the natural cycle of the NFL.
The “Circle of life” in the NFL starts with your rookie year, rises with the seasons of your productivity and gradually falls along with your lack of productivity to your release (few are offered a graceful exit from the league) only to return to the starting point as a rookie “fan.” I’ve yet to meet a former Steelers player who didn’t keep up with his team.
But the circle now and then brings you back to where it all began like alumni night which it was in the ‘Burgh Sunday evening. And former players return. Along the sidelines i got to say hello to a number of great players from years past. Jason Gildon, Levon Kirkland and Dirt Dawson just to name a few. All outstanding men, all contributors to the story of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
And the story continues…as does the circle…