View Full Version : Merrill: The Turk's work

09-04-2005, 01:16 AM

The Turk’s work
These days, cutting players is not a one-man job with the Chiefs, but it’s still unpleasant

The Kansas City Star

The footsteps came at night, down the end of the hallway, and were followed by a knock. Sometimes, the Turk was quiet. He’d slide a note under the door.

Things were less sophisticated then. Harsher. The Chiefs used to cut players in training camp, and in some ways that was good because they didn’t have to suffer through 24 days of camp, then hear three weeks later that their work was for naught.

Now they wait for a phone call, or a gentle tap on the shoulder.

The front office wants to see you …

“It’s not a fun time of year,” Lynn Stiles says when he answers his phone Friday, the day before the NFL’s final cutdowns. “It’s absolutely the worst time of year. The only thing worse is going to the Super Bowl and losing. But it is what it is, and we have no way to control it.

“My heart goes out to those guys who go out and work so hard to make a dream come true. When it doesn’t, it’s hard.”

Stiles, the Chiefs’ vice president for football operations, was in the office at about 6 a.m. Saturday, hours after the loss at St. Louis, and the process began. The Chiefs had 74 players on their roster Friday. They had to whittle that number down to 53.

Some decisions were made, for the most part, before Saturday. President/general manager Carl Peterson was still kicking around about three or four moves as late as halftime on Friday night.

And roughly 30 players collectively held their breath.

Stiles won’t say who serves as Kansas City’s Turk. It may be a couple of people, it may be a lone tactful soul who doesn’t wish to be identified. Whoever it is, Stiles doesn’t want anyone taking it out on the messenger.

Back in the late ’70s, when Dick Vermeil coached the Eagles, Peterson was his Turk. He didn’t enjoy the job, and quickly explains how the Turk got his name.

“Because he comes at night,” Peterson says.

The Chiefs, Vermeil says, try to make the process as painless as possible. When they cut a player, he’ll see at least five people before he leaves Arrowhead. First comes the Turk, then Stiles or Bill Kuharich, the vice president of pro personnel. The player also visits the trainer, a member of the equipment staff, and Vermeil.

If it’s a veteran who’s put in a decent amount of time with the Chiefs, he’ll have a visit with Peterson.

Peterson’s final message is always the same.

“It’s never over in this business,” Peterson says. “Things can change as quickly as one day. I tell them to stay in shape and that we may get back to you or you may get an opportunity with somebody else.”

Vermeil, who’s big on player relationships and group hugs, makes a point to visit with all of the departing Chiefs. When he was in Philadelphia, he wanted to be the person who broke the news.

He calls last week’s cut of Shaunard Harts one of the toughest of his career. He spent about 20 minutes in his office chatting with Harts, who came in with Vermeil in 2001. He’s gotten to know Harts’ life story, about his 12 siblings, his wife and two kids, but Harts got caught up in a numbers game at safety.

The Chiefs added Sammy Knight in the offseason, and couldn’t cut loose Jerome Woods because of the big cap hit. So Harts was gone Tuesday, in the first round of cuts, and Vermeil was melancholy.

“It’s hard to say goodbye to those kids,” Vermeil says. “You know their wife and kids and you’ve shared a glass of wine and you’ve had dinners at their house. It’s not as much trouble saying goodbye to a turdbird. Some guys, you just can’t wait to get them out of here. But we don’t have any guys like that around here.”

The last day as a Chief inevitably ends near the equipment room, where Mike Davidson, Allen Wright or another member of the equipment staff checks them out. The player hands over a sheet of paper to be signed.

Davidson and his staff pack up their uniform, pads and helmet in a travel bag and store it in case they come back. Eight released players will be back on the practice squad. Others could return after an injury.

Sometimes, a player asks whether he can keep a jersey or a helmet as a memento. Davidson reminds him that he may need it if he comes back. He wants to be part of the cutdown process. In some cases, it’s the last time he’ll talk to a player he’s become attached to.

“You just try to keep it low key,” Davidson said. “Some guys feel like talking, and some don’t. Some guys visit for a little bit, and others sign it and they’re off. I always try to leave it with a positive for them.

“They’re human beings. A lot of them are really nice young men. But the reality is, they have 53 (spots). That’s what the roster says you can have. But it’s hard because you’ve watched how hard they’ve worked.”

Stiles has seen 300-pound men break into tears and 22-year-olds lose their livelihood. But not all cut stories end on a sad note. When Stiles was with Vermeil in the coach’s younger days, and they kept even longer hours, a player who had just been released looked at Stiles and told him he looked tired and needed to get some sleep.

“I thought, ‘Hey kid, shut up,’ ” Stiles said. “I’m cutting you. You’re not cutting me.”

It just feels that way sometimes.

09-04-2005, 01:23 AM
“It’s absolutely the worst time of year. The only thing worse is going to the Super Bowl and losing. Anybody besides me wonder how anyone besides DV in the Chief's org would know this?

09-04-2005, 01:27 AM



09-04-2005, 01:29 AM
Anybody besides me wonder how anyone besides DV in the Chief's org would know this?
They were all in Philly when DV's team lost the Super Bowl weren't they? I really don't know...

09-04-2005, 01:50 AM
They were all in Philly when DV's team lost the Super Bowl weren't they? I really don't know...Yes it appears so, I should have read the whole article. I had no idea so many of them were with DV in Philly.