If you were an NFL player, you didn't want your phone to ring on Saturday. If it did, and it was from one of your coaches or someone else higher up in your organization, it likely meant you were being cut.
After a fitful sleep, Keion Crossen spent his day hanging out with teammates like fellow rookie defensive back A.J. Moore, checking his phone, and refreshing his Twitter feed for any news about his football future. To his relief, Crossen's phone never rang. He'd survived the summer to make New England's initial 53-man roster.
"I guess I kind of knew when you all knew," a beaming Crossen told reporters late Sunday morning in New England's locker room. "I'm very happy to be here and ready to get started."
Moore was not so fortunate, at least not initially. He was among the Patriots released on Saturday, only to be scooped up by New England's Week 1 opponent, the Houston Texans, on Sunday.
For Crossen, a seventh-round Patriots draft choice this year, his making the 53 hadn't yet sunk in when he met with the media. He was at his locker, all alone in a far corner of the Patriots locker room, where he found himself the only player still occupying a row of about a half-dozen lockers.
"It's very different," Crossen acknowledged. "As a rookie class, you come in together. Some go, some stay… But I'm ready to play. Focusing on this week and what I can do to make this team better.
"I don't know what to anticipate. I'm still a rookie, still learning. I know we're going to practice. I definitely know that."
Thankfully for Crossen, he has many experienced teammates willing to advise him on what comes next.
"Don't get overwhelmed by anything. Take it one day at a time," remarked center and returning co-captain David Andrews. "You've had the preseason now to work on a routine and how to prepare. Focus on the emphasis for that day."
Another valuable lesson: Even seemingly secure veterans, like left guard Joe Thuney, don't take their spots on the team for granted.
"It's a tough couple of days," Thuney said about cut-down weekend. "You just have to focus on what you can control. Regardless of what happens, keep trying to work hard. I have all the faith in the world in the coaches and the decisions. I'm really excited I made the 53. Each year's a new year, so, I'm fortunate where I am."
Veteran free agent running back Jeremy Hill also remains a Patriots after beating out veteran rusher Mike Gillislee, but as his position coach observed Sunday, Hill must continue to prove himself to keep his job here in Foxborough.
"I really liked him when he was coming out [of college]… I like the adjustments he made to be a part of who we are," Ivan Fears said. "Game day is different. Let's see what he does. I've got a good feeling about him, but he's got to do it."
"The hardest thing about this league is, everyone makes a big deal about the initial 53-man roster, but teams aren't set on final cut-down day," declared safety and returning co-captain Devin McCourty. "I tell these rookies, 'Keep doing what you've been doing. Obviously, that's worked. Don't catch your breath, because you'll see there's constant change in this league.' There'll be more transactions today and more throughout the whole first probably three or four weeks of the season.
"It's tough. I think every day you've got that in the back of your mind, but you've got to keep playing football at the level you've been playing it."
A fluid situation
As McCourty predicted, New England made transactions Sunday afternoon, claiming a pair of receivers off waivers from other teams: Chad Hansen, a 2017 fourth-round choice of the New York Jets, and former Seahawks third-round pick Amara Darboh.
To do so, of course, New England had to clear room on its 53-man roster. Wide receiver Julian Edelman does not currently count, as he is serving an NFL suspension for the first four weeks, and media reports have suggested that rookie tight end Ryan Izzo will eventually be placed on injured reserve. That would provide the necessary space for Hansen and Darboh to join the Patriots.
"That's the fun part of this," wide receivers coach Chad O'Shea told reporters before Sunday's practice. "When you get a player that's new to the system, you get to spend a lot of time with them, time that's outside of the normal structured meetings and walkthroughs and practices. I really enjoy that process, to try to get them caught up."
Subsequent media reports indicated that a number of Patriots released on Saturday would be joining the team's 10-man practice squad on Sunday, including third-year defensive lineman Vincent Valentine, second-year linebacker Harvey Langi, second-year wide receiver Riley McCarron, rookie QB Danny Etling, and rookie running back Ralph Webb.
There could be others forthcoming, but that quintet was among approximately two dozen Patriots who cleared waivers as of noontime Sunday. Tight end Will Tye also cleared, but with an injury settlement, and has been placed on New England's reserve/injured list, media reports say.
Meanwhile, the Buffalo Bills snatched rookie punter Corey Bojorquez and second-year cornerback Ryan Lewis for their 53-man roster. Cornerback and return specialist Cyrus Jones is returning to his native Baltimore as a member of the Ravens practice squad.
"It's a joy to be here," added a grateful Crossen. "I wish everyone who's not here the best, and everyone who is here, have a great season."
Glad that's over
Most players who stopped to chat with the media before Sunday's practice expressed relief that the preseason is over and, one week from today, the regular season schedule begins when the Patriots host the Texans at 1 p.m. Eastern.
"Yeah, this is everything we've worked for and talked about. It's here. It's right in front of us. We're all excited for that," proclaimed the aforementioned Hill. "Practice is going to be amazing this week. Everyone's going to be flying around."
"I am, definitely. Time to start preparing for another team," wide receiver Phillip Dorsett confessed. "It counts now. Everything counts. I'm happy to start game-planning."
"As you get older," McCourty pointed out, "you try to play the preseason and not get hurt, and then get to the regular season. I'm excited."
"Came out of [the preseason] healthy, so, always grateful for that," added Andrews. "Now, it's the real football beginning here. That's the coaches' job, to put together a team. Our job's to go out there and execute the playbook. We'll start diving in here on the Texans and start the week off right."
Flowers finally ready to bloom?
Trey Flowers spent most of the summer in pads, but doing little more than rehabilitation exercises on the practice field and not taking a single snap in a preseason game. He's been dealing with an unspecified ailment, but when asked Sunday if he'll be ready to go against Houston next weekend, Flowers sounded confident.
"Yeah, man. That's the plan. I play football and it's time for football to be played, so, I expect to be out there."
Flowers was, in fact, taking part in position drills when New England took the field Sunday afternoon around 3 p.m. for its first practice of the regular season. Although he was spotted in the locker room earlier in the day, left tackle Trent Brown was the only Patriot not in uniform during the 20-minute media viewing window at the start of today's session.
In addition to the five practice squad players mentioned earlier, three other men who were on the 90-man roster now appear to be working with the practice squad. Offensive linemen Cole Croston and James Ferentz, along with rookie defensive lineman Trent Harris, suited up and took part in Sunday's on-field activity.
The team is scheduled to resume training sessions Tuesday through Friday in preparation for the Houston Texans.