The Green Bay Packers announced their final 53-man roster on Saturday, and the process involved cutting some effective players and trading for one more.
"We released a lot of guys that had done some things with Green Bay," general manager Ted Thompson said. "This is the most difficult day anyone has in the National Football League."
Those difficult cuts involved two players many had projected as starters before training camp began -- defensive tackle Cletidus Hunt and linebacker Ray Thompson.
Hunt's release had less to do with his aching knees and shoulder, which limited him during much of a training camp, and more to do with the potential of other defensive linemen on the roster.
"He didn't have any problems with his knees during the game and he didn't have problems after the game," Thompson said. "Some of those young guys at defensive tackle played well. We made the decision based on that."
Those young guys include second-year defensive tackles Cullen Jenkins, Corey Williams and Donnell Washington, first-year tackle Colin Cole and third year-tackle Kenny Peterson.
Thompson signed as a free agent in the offseason from the Arizona Cardinals.
"He played pretty well," Ted Thompson said. "It's a numbers thing where you can only keep so many guys."
The release of Thompson likely paves the way for Paris Lenon to start at outside linebacker. He had an outstanding preseason, leading the Packers in tackles with 20 and tying for the lead in passes defended with four.
"He's had a fine camp," Thompson said. "He's a very consistent player."
A new linebacker could enter the mix as well. The Packers traded cornerback Chris Johnson to the St. Louis Rams for linebacker Robert Thomas.
Thomas started 34 games and compiled 136 tackles in his three years with the Rams. The former UCLA star can chase down ballcarriers and play well in space. He also can man multiple positions. With the Rams he played middle, weakside and strongside linebacker and in all of the nickel packages.
The Packers front office had watched extensive film on the Rams, and the trade made sense for both teams. The Packers had good depth in the secondary while the Rams added free agents Dexter Coakley and Chris Claiborne during the offseason.
"That was a team that was strong and deep at linebacker," Thompson said. "At the same they felt like we had some corners."
The Packers released quarterback J.T. O'Sullivan, running back Walt Williams, fullback Vonta Leach, wide receiver Craig Bragg, wide receiver Sam Breeden, wide receiver Jamal Jones, wide receiver Andrae Thurman, tight end Sean McHugh, offensive tackle Brad Bedell, offensive tackle/guard Joe Hayes, defensive tackle James Lee, defensive end R-Kal Truluck, defensive end Seante Williams, linebacker Corey Jenkins, linebacker Nick McNeil, cornerback Chris Day, cornerback Leigh Torrence, Hunt and Thompson.
The Packers also traded Steve Morley to the New York Jets for a future undisclosed draft choice.
Because of the number of quality interior offensive linemen on the roster, including Adrian Klemm, Mike Flanagan, William Whitticker, Grey Ruegamer, Scott Wells and Chris White, the Packers did not have room for Morley or Bedell.
"You'd like to have three or four deep at each position and have a Pro Bowler on the first team and a backup Pro Bowler on the second team," Thompson said. "The good Lord didn't make that many good tackles in the world."
The Packers linemen have good versatility, and players like Flanagan and Klemm could slide over to tackle if Chad Clifton, Mark Tauscher or Kevin Barry goes down with an injury.
"We have guys that can line up there," Thompson said.
Like Cullen Jenkins, Kenny Peterson also can play multiple positions. After struggling early in camp, he moved from defensive end to defensive tackle in the final two preseason games and played well.
"He's active," Thompson said. "He's a little more of an inside player."
Like many NFL teams the Packers roster will feature a lot of youth, and they will add to that when they begin establishing their practice squad on Sunday.
"We're looking for football players and certainly guys with some upside," Thompson said. "We're not looking for people just so we can get through a practice."
That practice squad could include some of the players cut on Sunday.
"I'm sure we'll have some guys on our team that we'll try and get back," he said.
Releasing players is one of the general manager's most arduous tasks.
"It's been a long day," Thompson said. "It's going to be a long night."