NFL teams must cut their rosters from 90 players to 80 Tuesday, a time Redskins coach Mike Shanahan described as “one of the harder days for a football coach.”


(Jonathan Newton/WASHINGTON POST)

The difficulty comes when a coach has to sit a player down and let him know that he is, in a sense, being fired, Shanahan said.

“Going from 90 to 80 is not hard. Lot of times, you go into camp with 80,” Shanahan said. “Even though sometimes between 90 and 80 you may have guys that are able to play in the National Football League, you may be a little stronger in one position and all of a sudden a guy is more expendable than the other even though he can still play. That’s the hardest thing for a coach to tell somebody, that he’s not going to make your football team. So regardless of if it’s 90 to 80 or to the 53 and practice squad, it’s one of the harder days for a football coach.”

After its fourth and final preseason game against visiting Tampa Bay Thursday, the team must go from 80 players to 53. Players on the PUP list count against the 80 total, but they and players on injured reserve do not count against the 53-man roster.

Shanahan said evaluation for that round of cuts has been a little more challenging because without organized team activities and minicamps, there has been less time for coaches to observe and grade players.

One of the more crowded and competitive positions is wide receiver. Washington has 11 on the roster. Santana Moss, Jabar Gaffney, Anthony Armstrong, Terrence Austin and Donte Stallworth have been solid throughout the preseason. The Redskins also have rookies Leonard Hankerson, Niles Paul, Aldrick Robinson and Isaac Anderson in addition to second-year receiver/punt/kick returner Brandon Banks. Malcolm Kelly is currently nursing an injured foot.

Teams generally carry five to six receivers, but Shanahan said he hasn’t decided how many the Redskins will go with this season.

“We don’t really have a number at each position. Most teams go with six, sometimes five and they might have two on the practice squad. Some teams will go more. You evaluate your top 53 guys and ask, ‘What gives us the best chance to have a solid roster?’ You may take two more practice squad players at a position if you have more depth there.”