Next Man Up

The shock when a veteran leader like Michael Robinson is cut lasts only a moment—to succeed in this league you’ve got to block out sentiment and focus on the job in front of you

By
Richard Sherman
· More from Richard·
(Ric Tapia/AP)
Seahawks special teams captain Michael Robinson fired up his unit in a game in San Francisco last season. (Ric Tapia/AP)

I grew up in Compton, went to college at Stanford and got drafted by the Seattle Seahawks—never did I imagine I’d set foot in Richmond, Va. But there I was, standing on the football field at Varina High School on May 18 for one reason and one reason only: Michael Robinson asked me to be there.

My teammate for each of my two NFL seasons was hosting a youth football camp in his hometown. Normally, when guys invite teammates to a hometown camp, they understand that not everybody will make it; things come up, and for most of us it’s a hassle to break the routine of offseason preparation or to work around vacation plans. But when Mike Robinson asks you to be somewhere, you show up. Marshawn Lynch knows this. Leon Washington and Russell Wilson, too. We were all there, listening to Mike educate a group of 500 rapt young boys and their parents on the realities of our game. He told the children they could use football as an avenue to get to college, to better the lives of themselves and their families. But he warned the adults: “Every parent thinks their kid is going to go to the NFL and be successful and make all of this money, but that’s not the case for every kid, and it’s unfair to put those kind of expectations on a child.”

Over the next three months we continued on a championship grind, working through minicamp, training camp and, last Thursday, the final preseason game. The following Friday afternoon I dozed off while watching television and woke up to this tweet from Mike: “Been real #12thMan will always have love for ya.”

I gave him a call immediately. He was just as shocked as I was, and I could tell he needed some space and time to figure things out.

The feeling was surreal: They really cut Mike Robinson? There’s no way, I thought. Lynch, the man Robinson has blocked for since 2010, rushed for more than 1,500 yards last season. Mike was our NFLPA rep, a special-teams captain and a Pro Bowler in 2011. At this point you feel like guys like that, who put in all the work, would get a chance to be a part of this team, of this experience. You didn’t see him doing anything wrong, and you knew he wasn’t injured. So what happened?

(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
Robinson (26) played quarterback as a senior at Penn State; a fourth-round pick of the 49ers in 2006, he moved to Seattle in 2010 and found a niche in front of Marshawn Lynch in the backfield. (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

I went into the next day of practice with those questions still on my mind. Lynch and others shared my sense of shock. When a veteran gets cut, we may discuss it privately amongst ourselves, but there’s no ceremony, no coach’s acknowledgement of the missing man. I never saw Mike collect his things from his locker, and I didn’t get to shake his hand. The next morning, it’s as if no one had ever occupied the locker that once read No. 26. In meetings, the agenda is the same as it was the day before: Win today. And somebody who’s no longer in the room isn’t a part of today.

When a veteran gets cut, there’s no ceremony, no coach’s acknowledgement of the missing man. The next morning, it’s as if no one had ever occupied the locker that once read No. 26.
Robinson made the Pro Bowl two seasons ago; by this weekend he was looking for work, and the Seahawks were moving on. (Jim Mahoney/AP)
Robinson made the Pro Bowl two seasons ago; by last weekend he was looking for work, and the Seahawks were moving on. (Jim Mahoney/AP)

Never mind that the veteran fullback had only three months ago assembled us here to face our collective demons. It was Robinson and a small group of veterans who called a players meeting in the wake of several PED suspensions to tell us this: “Nobody can control what you do outside this building, but you can’t hurt this ball club. You have to start thinking of yourself as part of this team, first.”

How devastating it must have felt, 100 days later, to be told you’re no longer a part of that fraternity.

So how do we, as players, walk that line? How does one give his body and dedicate his actions to the team concept with the knowledge that your own release could come at any time? It’s about living day to day, moment to moment, and not getting preoccupied with a long-term vision. When I’m out on the practice field or in the meeting room, getting cut is the last thing on my mind—I feel I’m the best cornerback in football. By the same token, I can honestly tell you that I’ve looked at my phone this preseason and wondered when I’m going to get the call to turn in my iPad.

Getting cut was probably the last thing on Mike’s mind most days. Same goes for Marcus Trufant two years ago. He was a former Pro Bowl cornerback, but he injured his back in 2011, leading to his eventual release and to me seeing the field during my rookie season. The only way NFL teams survive personnel losses—be they cuts or injuries—is a next-man-up mentality. Seeing Marcus go was not a wake-up call for me, because my eyes were already open. I hope and suspect that seeing Mike go was not a wake-up call for my teammates: Anybody who needed a kick in the ass already got it on the way out the door.

In the end, there is no man essential to the ultimate goal: We are each parts of a whole. Some parts become friends. You share meals with them, meet their children and show up to their summer football camps, no matter how far away. They become indispensable parts of your life. Yet to identify an indispensable part on a football team is to concede defeat in the event that man’s football mortality catches up with him. Every man can be replaced. In our case, fullbacks Derrick Coleman and Spencer Ware are up. Mike Robinson, unfortunately, is out.

Seahawks All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman will be contributing to The MMQB throughout the season. Read what he’s written so far.

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92 comments
ChrisShockey
ChrisShockey

I can't explain how angry I was with the decision to let Mike Rob go.  He's part of the team that's built the Seahawks to where they are today.  It put an absolute damper on the season for me.  I have to say though this article really helped out, hearing this from a player somehow has made this easier to swallow.  You put clarity to the emotions I was feeling, and it's much appreciated.  Thanks for taking the time.

BrianSandford
BrianSandford

I've been an editor in journalism for many years, and while you can touch things up to make them sound better, you can't create this. Only the source -- the reporter or blogger -- can do this. I'm kind of amazed at how good this is.

mediaexpert
mediaexpert

From what legendary College Football coach do you think MRob learned this from?

Mike told the children they could use football as an avenue to get to college, to better the lives of themselves and their families. But he warned the adults: “Every parent thinks their kid is going to go to the NFL and be successful and make all of this money, but that’s not the case for every kid, and it’s unfair to put those kind of expectations on a child.”

12thPerspective
12thPerspective

It's hard for the fans to see a player like Mike Rob go because of his consistent dominance on the field. It's a safe bet that Coleman and Ware will be constantly measured up against Rob. At least until the decision is proven to be warranted

canrightc
canrightc

Well done Richard.  I see a career for you in Journalism after football.  

Loosing Robinson was a shock fore me too, and you describe the emotions and realities of the business extremely well.

 Good Luck in Carolina this weekend.  I can't wait to see you dominate Steve Smith... again.

Go Hawks! 


Michael185
Michael185

He looked better in the Niners uniform

calebztheman
calebztheman

I hope the youngsters are ready to fill those shoes!  I hope they bring Mike Rob back at a reduced salary later on

Ilovemesomeme
Ilovemesomeme

Liked this article a lot by Sherman.  Well done. 

tomkuhlmann
tomkuhlmann

Happens in regular jobs, too. I worked at Capital One once. They'd let someone go, clear out the cubicle, and then wipe the place clean as if the person never worked there. Robinson's a great guy and gets the chance to continue his career (hopefully with the Seahawks). If not, he's media savvy and should have a great opportunity outside of football. Go hawks!

JamesCardle
JamesCardle

Love it SHERM keep up the good work.... BRO!

rongrummer
rongrummer

Personally, I wouldn't have traded MikeRob for Ware and Coleman, yet alone Ware or Coleman, and our run game, and team are weaker for cutting MikeRob. Perhaps, after the season if need be, but this is probably one of the worst decisions I've seen Pete and John make since they've been with our team, and I hope it doesn't throw a wet blanket on one of the most promising seasons this team has ever had. 

SteveRowFla
SteveRowFla

Fullbacks are going the way of the dodo bird with the new offenses, but they'll be back once "mobile" qbs start becoming immobilized by the pounding they take.

DUB_ble
DUB_ble

Good article Sherm. Making me feel all kinds of feels smh #GoHawks

SissySmith
SissySmith

Mr. Sherman is an excellent writer and gave me some real insight about this topic.

REDSKINS_4EVER
REDSKINS_4EVER

I'm from Richmond. I played some high school ball and remember being scared as shit to play Varina. Great read Sherm... you should come back to the Right coast and play for The Redskins! HTTR

namusement
namusement

great read Sherm. So sad but true.Good luck to you and the Seahawks, and of course Michael Robinson.

Willy1962
Willy1962

I love both these guys, Sherman and Robinson.  It's too bad when a player gets cut, but this is a revolving door league and Richard Sherman explained it beautifully.

Fishlady4459
Fishlady4459

I really hope they can bring him back.  Putting such a specialized job as blocking for Lynch in the hands of a rookie is very unnerving.  Even if they have him back in a limited role, it would be better than just cutting him off like that.  

JumboJim
JumboJim

"Yet to identify an indispensable part on a football team is to concede defeat in the event that man’s football mortality catches up with him" - Wow! That is a beautifully written, very insightful sentence. Mr.Sherman, you have a gift with words and I tip my hat to you.

Fifilo
Fifilo

I never really understood the fans that complain about the players getting 'too much money.'

These guys have a limited shelf-life, either through events as in this article or by a career ending injury that can literally be just one step ahead. The ones that last have bodies that are broken and abused.


They also generate crazy amounts of money for owners that often leech off tax payer funded stadiums, not to mention the additional billions generated to complementary businesses such as beer, chips, cable, satellite, networks, tv manufacturers, fantasy leagues, restaurants, etc.

khafre04
khafre04

Oh I get it you are mad bc I am not buying the hype about Sherman.  It would be easier to stomach his mouth about how he is good IF BRANDON MARSHALL HAD NOT ABUSED HIM TO THE TUNE OF 10 RECEPTIONS FOR 165 YARDS LAST FALL.  So dont curse me perhaps instead  you should consider getting off Shermans jock. 

AKGrown12
AKGrown12

I hope and pray they bring him back in some capacity. He is a force that we need on that team...He deserves to be there.

khafre04
khafre04

Pretty good article by the 10th best corner back in the league

PNWFan
PNWFan

It really sucks to see Mike Rob go.

mcbridej74
mcbridej74

Lets be honest here. Its ALL about money for the owners. Has nothing to do with winning. The owners only try to put a winning product on the field to earn money. Everyone is supposed to sacrifice except for the pos counting his money.

randomdeletion
randomdeletion

This is the best piece you have written Richard.  Very very good.  This is a very tough part of the NFL life that emotionally anyone can appreciate the difficulty of it.  I am sure it is very odd the first time anyone witnesses how the machine moves on as if the cut player was never there.  Not that the team (mgmt) doesn't care, just that they can't get into explaining things and being emotional about these moves.  It is imperative to move on right away for the good of the team.  

In your previous post where you discussed the economics of the preseason I thought that was a terrible article as it seemed so ill-informed and whiney.  One of the flaws many a vet player has had is their inability to accept the economics of football.  Just as your value can ascend with your ability so does it descend.  If more vet players could accept the reality of playing for less (as they over value themselves) they could keep jobs that they really want.  Instead of hanging on in the league for a team they really don't want to play for.  

How often does a vet player lose his job to someone younger and cheaper?  That is happening more and more.  Why?  Because the gap in ability is not as big as the vet thinks it is.  Certainly not as big as the pay is.  That is the issue at hand in these situations.  The cap is finite.  To win a Super Bowl, you simply can not reward every veteran with money he thinks he has earned and deserved.  

Life is about experiences.  Experiences we can treasure and appreciate the rest of our days.  It is not about the size of our bank account and yet many a player will exchange the opportunities to experience something very few do for a larger bank account.  I don't get it. 

StrangelyInsane
StrangelyInsane

Well written article. Mr. Robinson performed well on the field and earned the respect of his teammates and his community. He will be missed by both. He will also be missed by Mr. Lynch. Hope these young pups can clear the way for him like Mr. Robinson did.

OwG
OwG

Im surprised Robinson hasn't been picked up by now. I didn't think he'd be unemployed very long. 

SnoHawk
SnoHawk

Mike Rob will be on TV somewhere soon.  Either on the field helping a team, or in a studio or on a sideline broadcasting.  Dude is a stud in football and it appears, life as well.  As a Hawks fan I'm glad he had some time to make an impact on the many young and upcoming Seahawks.  The football downside for him is that he is listed as a fullback- a position where many teams that does not exist.  So odds are against him getting a quick call.  if he decides to hang up his cleats, I'm sure coaching and broadcasting opportunities will be knocking.  

Kyle Spillman
Kyle Spillman

good article Richard, love reading your work

ghostofpaterno
ghostofpaterno

F Pete Carroll!  Is the fool still chasing cheerleaders?  Best to MR sure he will surface somewhere••••fingers crossed that he land in Philly

calebztheman
calebztheman

@khafre04 your a clown they moved Brandon Marshall around to get him away from Richard you DUMMY!  Sherm doesn't follow he stays on his side of field in that defense!  Better know what your talkin about when you post stuff!

Kristian
Kristian

@khafre04 I have him rated as the 3rd best.  I'd like to hear your list of the 9 that you think are better.  It honestly sounds like you're just trolling.

SteveRowFla
SteveRowFla

@mcbridej74 Jealous underachiever.  Why don't you take some risks and make something of yourself so you can count your money?!

Nonfantasylandman
Nonfantasylandman

@mcbridej74 Sure dude Sure....Its all about the money mannnnnnnnnnn.  Its not about winning mannnnn its about making money, but to make money you have to win mannnnnnnnn

Rumrunner11
Rumrunner11

@mcbridej74 Owner's don't make these calls though - unless you're the Raiders or Cowboys.....


And I'm not pro- 'rich guy', but if it weren't for them, you wouldn't have NFL - or any other pro sport, for that matter

ColinProctor
ColinProctor

@OwG The decision must have had something to do with the virus he caught. All reports are that he has lost a lot of weight, and is working to get back. I would not be surprised to see him back on the Seahawks roster with a restructured salary this season.

RayIsBipolar
RayIsBipolar

@SnoHawk Robinson is no doubt a big contributor because he is a special teams stud. The problem with being cut this late is most teams already have their special teams ace in place and they don't want to pay another veteran the extra money to do what some rookie LB/FB can do for the minimum. Whoever decides to pay Robinson a fair salary will get a damn fine player and even better teammate. You are right about the FB position being non-existent for teams, making it that much more difficult for a team to pay him strictly to be a special teams player.

khafre04
khafre04

@Fifilo @khafre04 :-D i thought so.  BTW your comments about the false perception that the players get paid too much while making fat cat owners richer were spot on!!


Nonfantasylandman
Nonfantasylandman

@Rumrunner11 @mcbridej74why not be pro rich guy?  There is a reason why there is no other country comparable to America.  Its because you are allowed to be rich guy even if you were one day poor guy.  

Rumrunner11
Rumrunner11

@ColinProctor @OwG It was age and salary, but the nail in the proverbial coffin was this illness.  It came out that he'd miss the first few weeks of the season, which put pressure on the front office to cut a young player to have Robinson on the roster, or to keep the young healthy player that can help you now.


Tough call, but I totally understand the decision.  Not to say that he won't be back with Seattle later in the year.  so few teams use a FB these days

SnoHawk
SnoHawk

@RayIsBipolar I bet he'll be offered a chance to come back once players prove to be ineffective or others get injured.   I know the Seahawks would take him back if the situation needed them to.  if its late in the season it'll be interesting to see if he chooses to pursue it or not.  He will have so many options.   

RayIsBipolar
RayIsBipolar

@SnoHawk @RayIsBipolar I agree, Robinson's career is far from over. In the end, he will acknowledge that a pay cut in the NFL still pays better than a job in the real world. I hope it is out of the NFC West that's for sure. I would like him back on the Niners but I prefer Anthony Dixon over Robinson, after all, Dixon is the guy to push Robinson north.

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