Sitting On The NFL Roster Bubble, Final Pre-Season Game-Day Cup O’Chiefs

Brandon Bair (#88 with Oregon), Amon Gordon (#99 with the Titans) and Cody Slate (#85 with Marshall) sit on the NFL bubble, waiting to see if there’s room on the 2011 Chiefs roster.


From Green Bay, Wisconsin

The Chiefs spent Wednesday evening in Appleton, Wisconsin, about 30 miles away from this iconic NFL city that they call “Titletown.”

For some of the 80 players remaining on the Chiefs roster, it was just another night in a road-trip hotel, part of the business of finishing out the 2011 pre-season with a game Thursday evening against the Packers at Lambeau Field.

However, nearly half of those players may have spent their last moments as NFL players in that Appleton hotel. That made for fitful sleep and long stares at the ceiling as they pondered football futures that may end in less than 48 hours.

“It’s always there, but you have to try to shut it off or it will drive you nuts,” said DL Amon Gordon. “When you are a football player, you are a man of action. But after we play the game, the action is no longer in our hands. There isn’t anything we can do.”

It could be interesting to see what sports psychology programs and psychologists have to say about this. It is surely a stressful experience for these guys.   On Saturday, all 32 league teams must slice their rosters to their regular season limit of 53 players. One does not need to be a math major to see that by Saturday afternoon there will be 32 x 27 = 864 players that will be in some form of football unemployment. A number of those spots will be players shuttled to the injured-reserve list. A healthy number of those players will be unemployed for 24 hours before they get a chance to land one of the eight-man practice squads. Again, the math is 32 x 8 = 256.

That still leaves approximately 600 players that must face the reality that football may not be their life’s work.

As the Chiefs got ready to play the Packers, we spent some time talking with three players on the roster facing uncertain times in the next 48 hours.

From left to right, Brandon Bair, Amon Gordon and Cody Slate.

There is Gordon, just two classes short of his degree from Stanford University. He’s banged around the NFL for seven years now and in October will be 31 years old.

There is TE Cody Slate, who enjoyed a moment in the sun last Friday when he caught a touchdown pass against the St. Louis Rams. Slate is in his second NFL pre-season and knows what it sounds like when the phone call comes and the voice on the other end says “the coach wants to see you; bring your playbook.” He’s 24 years old.

And then there is DE Brandon Bair, a 26-year old rookie out of the University of Oregon who has a wife, a child, a baby on the way, plus his own business selling cars back home in Idaho. This is his first NFL training camp.

Although they span the spectrum of the league, from offense to defense, from veteran to pure rookie, they share the idea that once the team returns home to Kansas City in the early hours of Friday, they will not sit around and wait for the phone to ring.

If the NFL waiver wire is looking for them on Saturday, it will have to find them.

“I’m going to go out and look at places to live for my family,” said Bair. “I’m going to think positive because I believe I’ve done everything I could do. I don’t and will not have regrets.”

Added Gordon: “You can’t sit around and stare at the phone. It will turn you into a basket case.”

Here’s what Gordon, Slate and Bair had to say about life in the NFL bubble.


DETAILS – Gordon is the definition of a journeyman, in football and life … he was born in borough of Queens in New York City and went to high school at Whidbey Island and Everett, Washington and finished up in San Diego, California … he played his college football at Stanford University … he was a fifth-round draft choice of the Cleveland Browns in 2004 .. in two seasons with the Browns, he played in six games … in 2006-07, he was with the Broncos but did not play in a game … in 2007 he played one game with the Baltimore Ravens … signed in 2009 by Philadelphia, he suffered an Achilles tendon injury and was placed on the injured reserve list … in two seasons with Tennessee he played five games with the Titans, including three last year … also last year, he spent two months with the New England Patriots and he played one game with Seattle, where he was signed and released three different times … the Chiefs are the eighth different NFL team he’s been with, or 25 percent of the league.

“It’s the kind of situation that comes with the business. It’s not easy by any stretch of the imagination, especially when so much is connected to this being your living and supporting families. I have to continue to tell myself this is the life that I chose.

“Walter Payton, Bo Jackson … they were my idols as kids. I played all the sports, but it was football that I really liked and wanted to be part of and it’s hard to think about walking away from that.

“It’s been a frustrating time bouncing around the league, no question. A lot of that I think is out of our control. You can put your best foot forward, deserve it and other things come into play.

“I think I’ve had a fair shot here. I came in and caught up pretty quickly and they’ve given me an opportunity to show how I may be able to contribute. That’s all you can ask for is the opportunity.

“I’m going to be so OK no matter what happens. It’s not my first time doing this obviously, so I have some idea of what to expect no matter the decision, either way. Knowing that I went out there and had a great opportunity, that’s all you can ask for. I have peace of mind that I did what I could do.”

HIS CHANCES OF MAKING THE CHIEFS 53-MAN ROSTER? Slim. His ability to play nose tackle, defensive tackle and defensive end provides versatility that makes him desirable in the eyes of the coaching staff. It will probably come down to a decision between him and Dion Gales, who is going through his third pre-season with the Chiefs, for the sixth and last spot on the defensive line.


DETAILS – Slate is the all-time leading tight end receiver in history at Marshall University … he was born in Chipley, Florida, attended high school at Hargrave Military Academy in Virginia … at Marshall, he was twice named first-team All-Conference USA … Slate suffered a torn ACL in a game against Southern Mississippi in November 2009, and that injury took him off NFL Draft boards … he was cleared to begin practicing again at the end of May ’10, and signed on June 4 with the Chiefs … he was released on the final cut and did not play anywhere in 2010 … the Chiefs added him to their practice squad on January 5, 2011 before the Baltimore game in the playoffs.

“We are learning on the run around here because of the lockout; it’s been different in this camp than the way it was last year..

“It’s just a waiting game after we get done with the Packers. Being in the NFL is everything you hope for, and you give your best and all, but sometimes it’s not good enough. There are people out there better than you. Sometimes you have to face the facts that you aren’t the right person to fit what they are looking for in that scheme. With only 53 players on the roster, they have to be specific in what they are getting.

“Last year, I had just gotten cleared to start practicing again on my knee, so there were still some things that were iffy. That wasn’t the case this year for me and having last year’s camp under my belt was a help. I had some idea of what to expect. This year I was a lot more calm and comfortable and it helped me play faster.

“On Saturday I’m going to try to keep myself busy. You’ll drive yourself crazy if you just sit there and wait for the phone to ring.

“When you get here everybody is just as fast, just as big, just as quick, having a step off what you normally have makes a big difference. You have to be on top of your game if they are going to call your name.”

HIS CHANCES OF MAKING THE CHIEFS 53-MAN ROSTER? Not good. Despite the TD catch last week, Slate is pretty much a carbon copy of starting TE Tony Moeaki, although he’s about 25 pounds lighter. With Moeaki around as the pass catching TE, the other TEs on the roster have to be blockers first. There’s a chance he could land on the practice squad.


DETAILS – An unusual 26-year old NFL rookie, Bair graduated from South Fremont High School in St. Anthony, Idaho in 2003 … he then spent two years on a church mission in Jacksonville, Florida, where he became fluent in Spanish … he landed at Oregon in 2006 for a redshirt year and got back on the field in 2007, playing four seasons for the Ducks … he graduated in June 2010 with a degree in Economics and a minor in Spanish … Bair owns High Point Auto, a used car business in Idaho … married to Jordan, he has a daughter Brooklyn and another child on the way … he went undrafted in the 2011 NFL Draft and signed with the Chiefs in July as a rookie free agent.

“There is only one thing I can control and that’s the way I perform. I feel really good about what I’ve done coming here. I’m going to continue to do so and whatever happens, will happen.

“Not too many men come in as rookies at the age of 26 and have a wife, a kid and another on the way, a dealership. If you are going to have that in your life, you have to make sure you have your priorities straight. As long as you put those things that are most important in front, you’ll be alright. With me that’s faith, family and football. That’s what’s important.

“It’s the first time I’ve gone through this, so I’m going to go forward and make plans and assume things are good. I’ll probably come into the complex and watch some film and do that first. Then I’ll start looking around at options for if I am here. No matter what happens, I will have it squared away. ”

HIS CHANCES OF MAKING THE CHIEFS 53-MAN ROSTER? Slim. Right now, there doesn’t appear to be any place in the rotation for Bain, although he’s shown excellent potential. His size at 6-7, 272 pounds and athletic ability make him a potential contributor. It would be a shock if he’s not on the practice squad.

6 Responses to “Sitting On The NFL Roster Bubble, Final Pre-Season Game-Day Cup O’Chiefs”

  • September 1, 2011  - pookie says:

    i think they keep 7 on the defensive line. Jackson, Gregg, Dorsey, Bailey, Powe, and Gilberry are 6 locks as far as i’m concerned. Making the final spot the 7th spot not 6th. I agree with it being between Gales and Gordon. I think Gordon should have an edge based on production but the coaches like Gales potential.

  • September 1, 2011  - el cid says:

    Doesn’t Gordon and Gales seem like the same guy? Always on the edge of making it, a sure signee for the next training camp, raw potential, and, probably, only gets on the field during the regular season due to injury?

  • September 1, 2011  - Anon says:

    Gordon’s arrow is going down. I’m not sure Gales’ arrow is facing up, however.

  • September 1, 2011  - Blake says:

    Bob, I have a question for you. Is Amon Gordon suppose to be like Shaun Smith last year? Do you remember last year he was running with the 3rd string defense and everyone thought he would get cut. He was the guy that could play both DE and NT. I know Gordon isnt as talented as Smith and him and Crennel havent been with each other anywhere but it seems like they are trying to find another Shaun Smith…

  • September 2, 2011  - Will says:

    I thought Gordon played well last night…fast coming around the edge as a rusher…always in the backfield…I’d keep him!

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