Jim Fassel may never forget cutting Ryan Smith in his rookie season as coach of the New York Giants.
Neither will Ryan Phillips.
To reach the NFL’s 53-man roster limit by 4 p.m. EDT Sunday, Fassel waived seven players, including Smith, a free agent from the University of Idaho, who had been the Giants’ long snapper throughout the preseason.
Since Syracuse was playing Wisconsin in the Kickoff Classic at Giants Stadium at 2 p.m. and getting in and out of the stadium would be tough, Fassel decided to break the news by telephone.
Most of the players released were staying at a hotel.
Let Fassel tell the story:
“I called the hotel and I asked for Ryan Smith’s room and they rang me to the room,” Fassel recalled at practice on Monday.
“Ryan,” he said over the phone. “Hello” was the response.
“This is Coach Fassel. I’m sorry to call you on this matter, but I have to deliver some news, and I am going to have to release you.”
In his ear piece, Fassel heard: “I can’t believe this. You got to be kidding me.”
“Not really,” Fassel responded. “I really have to do this. It’s part of the business.”
“Oh, man, I thought I was going to make this team,” Fassel heard.
The player was obviously upset, Fassel said. “I went on and said, ‘It’s hard for me to just carry a snapper who doesn’t do anything else.”’
At that, the person at the other end of the line interrupted: “Coach. Coach. This is Ryan Phillips.”
Phillips, a linebacker, was the Giants’ third-round draft pick this year. He also played at Idaho and has been rooming with his friend and former teammate, Ryan Smith.
After taking a second to collect himself, Fassel apologized.
“All right, you’re going to be at work tomorrow. Sit down and relax.”
“I had all the fail safes. … I asked for Ryan Smith’s room. Then I said ‘Ryan’ and he said ‘Yes.’ I didn’t know the odds of having another Ryan in the room.”
Phillips said Monday the telephone call was the worst of his life. He said his mind went blank for 2 or 3 minutes. The word “snapper” brought him back to reality.
“My heart just dropped to the bottom of my stomach,” Phillips said.
The hard part for Phillips then was handing the phone to Smith.
“He took it pretty good, a lot better than me,” Phillips said.
Smith packed and left the team, leaving Phillips alone in the room.
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