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Left Chilled By Draft

"When you've got a draft that isn't starting to look so good, you're going to do whatever you can to make it look as good as possible," punter Derrick Frost said, after he was cut. (The Post)
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But after Frost's biting comments yesterday, my only response is, "Punt this."

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Last word on the kicking game for now: Congratulations to Brooks for making this team. He had no allies in the locker room and however he won the job he's the guy now trying to be Guy, the great Raiders punter who was Brooks's family friend and mentor.

The truth is that Brooks was never brought in to compete for Frost's job; no, Frost was re-signed to the veteran minimum to compete for Brooks's job. The kid was pretty much ordained the team's next punter when Cerrato spent a sixth-round draft pick on him.

From all the buttery comments from Smith about the kid during training camp, to the way in which Frost wasn't even told he would be punting until the day of a game, this contest was rigged. Frost's lack of hang time, keeping the ball skyward until the return team could get down the field, was supposedly a constant concern for the franchise. Still, Frost had better preseason numbers than Brooks -- 45.5 yards per kick in 15 punts to 42.8 yards per kick in 13 punts. Frost kicked it a little longer (he got off a 65-yarder out of the back of his end zone against Carolina) and a little more accurately.

He was inconsistent in Washington at times, but he often got the job done when it mattered. Was it enough to beat out the kid? That's not the issue. The issue is whether he got a fair shake, and the answer is no. It would have been nice if they had released him two weeks ago, though, before everyone held onto a punter for their 53-man roster.

I know. The NFL is a business and hard, ruthless decisions are made every day that end up with people being out of work. But cut-down day comes in the midst of Zorn saying he hasn't "given up" on Jon Jansen as his starting right tackle, saying the competition is now open between he and Stephon Heyer to start.

It's no secret that Jansen, hurting with a sprained right foot, has had trouble in pass protection in the latter stages of his career; Al Saunders, in fact, had no use for him and didn't think he could athletically handle a quicker-paced offense.

But we're not talking about a 22-year-old, practice-squad regular whom Zorn hasn't given up on. We're talking about the most tenured player on the roster, a man who has had to work as hard in rehab as he has on the field just so he can still play this game.

In many ways, the NFL is like any cost-cutting American enterprise. Every employee eventually gets old and is replaced by someone younger and cheaper. But wouldn't it be nice if people who play a sport that is essentially a car accident in pads and helmet for 10 years were treated with a little more tact and respect?

Or a guy who worked hard to keep his job was told from the start, "Look, we used a draft pick on a punter. Unless the kid has a psychological break, we don't want to waste it." That way, nobody gets called out on cut-down day.

Direct and honest communication -- what a concept, no?

In the end, if Cerrato's first controversy as top boss is nothing more than Frost popping off on his way out of town, that's one thing. But if this is the first ripple in a locker room questioning his credibility, that's something to really worry about.

Called out by a punter?

Ouch.


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