After a restless night, hundreds of NFL players nervously checked their cellphones Saturday morning, cringing every time it buzzed.
Tim Tebow was among those who got the dreaded call telling him to come see the coach and bring in his playbook.
Teams had to whittle their rosters to the 53-man maximum Saturday, and although his release wasn’t a big surprise, Tebow was by far the biggest name among the notable cuts.
“I will remain in relentless pursuit of continuing my lifelong dream of being an NFL quarterback,” an undaunted Tebow tweeted.
After being let go by his third team in 18 months — and with the season just five days away — the quarterback’s chances of immediately catching on with another team seem slim.
Several other veteran QBs also found themselves looking for work on this Labor Day weekend as the Giants released longtime backup David Carr, the Packers cut Vince Young and the Bills chopped Matt Leinart.
Other noteworthy cuts included:
Eagles RG Danny Watkins
49ers LS Brian Jennings
49ers WR Austin Collie
Panthers QB Jimmy Clausen.
Saints S Jim Leonhard
Browns K Shayne Graham
Chargers WR Robert Meachem
Those who made the 53-man rosters had a weekend respite before heading back to work Monday, except for the Broncos and Ravens, who kick off the season Thursday night in Denver.
The Broncos held meetings and a walk-through Saturday after final cuts were made. They’ll practice Sunday, as will the Super Bowl champion Ravens, who are being forced to start the season on the road because baseball’s Orioles wouldn’t move their game in Baltimore that night.
Among Denver’s cuts was veteran running back Lance Ball, paving the way for the injured C.J. Anderson of Cal to make the roster while the Broncos wait for him to recover from a sprained right MCL. That makes 10 straight seasons that an undrafted college free agent has made the Broncos’ opening day roster.
Two teams have longer streaks: Indianapolis (15 years) and Kansas City (11). The Colts kept 27-year-old rookie linebacker Caesar Rayford, a veteran of the Arena and Canadian leagues, and QB Tyler Bray made the Chiefs’ roster.
“It’s not an easy day because they all worked hard,” Broncos boss John Elway said about the players who didn’t make it. “We just don’t have enough slots for everybody.”
Every coach calls this the cruelest day of the year in pro football — even the Giants’ Tom Coughlin, whose birthday was Saturday. But Sunday might prove worse as some bottom-rung players who barely had the chance to celebrate making the team get discharged in favor of waiver wire pickups.
Teams can also fill their eight-man practice squads Sunday.
This could be it for Tebow, the popular but polarizing player who has provided both his supporters and detractors with plenty of fodder during his 35-game NFL career that includes a 47.9 completion percentage, 17 touchdown throws, nine interceptions, a dozen TD runs and 15 fumbles.
Jettisoned by the Jets last winter, Tebow signed June 11 with New England, where the man who drafted him in Denver, Josh McDaniels, is the offensive coordinator. His three-month stay with the Patriots was decidedly lower key than his stints with the Broncos, whom he led to the playoffs in 2011, and Jets, but he still had trouble throwing the ball, posting a passer rating of just 47.2.
Tebow’s last play with the Patriots, and perhaps in the NFL, was a 9-yard touchdown toss Thursday night to rookie free agent Quentin Sims with six seconds left against the Giants.
Now Tebow is out of work again and maybe out of chances.
“I can’t predict that,” Broncos coach John Fox said. “I wish nothing but the best for him, as I’ve said many times. He did a lot of good things for us, was great to this organization and to this coaching staff, myself included. So, I wish him nothing but the best.”