Alonzo Highsmith went to Dallas and Joe Morris, Eric Wright, Keena Turner, Gary Hogeboom, Matt Bahr and Cris Carter went into limbo yesterday as NFL teams cut down to the 47-man roster limit.
Highsmith, the Houston Oilers' No. 1 draft pick in 1987, was underused in an offense that had four players competing for one position. He was sent to his college coach, Jimmy Johnson, for some of the high draft picks the Cowboys got for Herschel Walker and he fills the running back void Dallas has had since Walker left last season.
Some of the other big names were just waived, although some could be recalled -- many teams cut players, then reclaim them after they clear waivers. And two players belatedly joined their teams -- defensive tackle Cortez Kennedy, the third player taken in the draft (like Highsmith, out of the University of Miami), signing with Seattle and linebacker Chris Singleton signing with New England.
"This is the worst day of the year in football," said New York Giants linebacker Gary Reasons. "It's hard to see guys you've been friends with a long time let go. It will happen to all of us one day."
The Los Angeles Raiders, for example, were left with only one quarterback, Jay Schroeder, after cutting Vince Evans and Jeff Francis. But they signed holdout Steve Beuerlein, got a roster exemption for him and may bring back one of their cuts later.
Dallas waived Keith Willis, its only kicker, but hoped to bring him back if no one grabs him. Minnesota also cut its only kicker, Jim Gallery, but may be trying to sign ex-Bronco Rich Karlis.
Detroit waived three running backs, leaving only Barry Sanders, and Coach Wayne Fontes said, "I wouldn't be surprised if you see a few of these guys back . . . ."
Fontes might look at Morris, the Giants' all-time leading rusher who was caught in a glut of running backs that includes top pick Rodney Hampton and Lewis Tillman. But Morris really lost out to 33-year-old Ottis Anderson, kept because he is a better receiver, blocker and short-yardage runner. Last year, Anderson rushed for more than 1,000 yards after Morris broke a foot in the last game of the preseason.
It was a bad day overall for the Morris family -- Joe's brother Jamie, a running back signed by New England from Washington as a Plan B free agent, was cut.
Wright, a cornerback, and Turner, a linebacker, were two of the five 49ers who played on all of San Francisco's four Super Bowl winners. The others are Joe Montana, Ronnie Lott and Mike Wilson.
"I still feel that I can play," Turner said.
Others released were Carter, who caught 45 passes for Philadelphia last season, 11 for touchdowns; Eagles reserve quarterback Matt Cavanaugh; Hogeboom, Phoenix's only veteran quarterback; Buford Jordan, New Orleans's starting fullback the past four years; linebacker Rickey Hunley by the Raiders; running backs Darrin Nelson, Thomas Sanders and Tim Spencer by San Diego; wide receiver Leo Lewis by Minnesota, and quarterback Mark Herrmann by the Los Angeles Rams.
Last year, when Mike Quick injured his knee, Carter became a vital cog in the Eagles' offense, known for his leaping ability in the end zone. Coach Buddy Ryan said Carter was cut because "he never really did anything outside the 20-yard line."
Carter had been in Ryan's doghouse since early in training camp, with Quick back and the coach saying Carter wasn't accomplishing anything with his leg wrapped.
The New York Jets withheld announcement but reportedly put their all-time leading rusher, Freeman McNeil, on waivers.
Dallas cut three running backs it recently acquired: Timmy Smith, who starred for Washington in the January 1988 Super Bowl, and former No. 1 picks Terrence Flagler and Lorenzo Hampton.
Donald Igwebuike, Tampa Bay's all-time leading scorer, lost his kicking job to Steve Christie. The Buccaneers also cut Lars Tate, their leading rusher the last two years. Pittsburgh cut receivers Rodney Carter and Weegie Thompson.
Bahr, the 11-year kicker for the Browns who hurt his back in a preseason game, was beaten out by Jerry Kauric, a Canadian league veteran. Cleveland also cut quarterback Pat Ryan, only recently obtained from the New York Jets.
The Jets traded fullback Roger Vick, a three-year starter, to Philadelphia for draft choices. The Jets named Ken O'Brien the starting quarterback over Tony Eason and Chicago designated Jim Harbaugh to start ahead of Mike Tomczak, although Coach Mike Ditka stressed the Bears "are still a two-quarterback team." San Diego Coach Dan Henning named Mark Vlasic to start Sunday at Dallas, citing him as "steadier" than Billy Joe Tolliver.
Cincinnati placed running back Ickey Woods on the physically unable to perform list. That means the star rookie of the Bengals' Super Bowl season in 1988, still recovering from knee surgery, will miss at least six games.
"Six weeks off will benefit me," Woods said. "I can still feel a little pain in there. A few weeks ago, I couldn't pull my leg up. Now I can."
Other veterans appeared on the way in, like Dave Duerson, the former Pro Bowl safety cut by the Bears. He was reportedly set to sign with the Giants, who lost starting strong safety Adrian White to a season-ending knee injury Saturday.
The Giants, who cut rookie quarterback Craig Kupp, also reportedly had some interest in Cavanaugh. So might Phoenix, which kept just Timm Rosenbach and Tom Tupa.
The signing of Kennedy and Singleton left two first-round picks unsigned: running back Emmitt Smith of Dallas and tight end Eric Green of Pittsburgh.