FOXBORO -- Bill Belichick feels for players at this time of year because he knows what it's like. He knows what it's like to empty the bucket, give yourself over to a job, and then get fired.
He also knows he's going to have to be the man who swings the sword, so to speak, when he cuts his roster down to 53 players before this weekend's deadline. It's not something he enjoys.
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"It’s always hard to have to release players, yeah," Belichick said following Thursday's preseason finale. "Personally, that’s always tough. Guys gave you everything they got and, I mean, we have 90 players and we have to get down to 53, so it will be hard to tell whoever it is – I don’t even know who it’s going to be – but whoever it is, it will be hard to tell some of those players that we won’t be able to keep them.
"We all knew that situation at the beginning. There’s nothing new with that. It’s just hard. Guys put a lot into it and they give it their best and it can’t work out for everybody. But I’ve been on the other side of the table, too."
Despite having one of the most talented rosters in the league, there are a handful of players who represent "bubble" options for the Patriots. The receiver position, in particular, is an interesting one now that the team knows it will be without Julian Edelman for the entirety of the 2017 season.
Does that mean there's room for an extra receiver to be brought aboard? What about a pass-catching tight end?
We spoke to a few of the standout players from Thursday's game about dealing with their uncertain futures and the pressures of the unknown.
Devin Lucien, second-year wide receiver, who caught five passes for 96 yards and a touchdown: "I thought it went OK. It's that time of the season where you start to figure out the reality of the situation. They pushed back the cutdowns so you get kind of lost in everything thinking you're going to be here the whole time, but you really don't know. I just hope I was able to put on a good performance this last game . . .
"I'm not going to sit here and lie to you and say it's not on my mind. It's on my mind all the time. But, you know, when you're in practice that's kind of the time to let go of that and just practice. If you think about that while you're on the practice field, you're going to just start messing up. You start messing up, you're really going to be far from staying on the team like this. That's another thing I really wanted to prove. I want to be here. Being on a team for the whole year on a practice squad and then winning the Super Bowl. You see Tom Brady, the GOAT, Julian Edelman make the catch like that. Danny make the touchdown. Malcolm's making catches and all you want to do is you want to be the next one up."
Cody Hollister, undrafted rookie receiver, who caught a nine-yard touchdown pass: "Me and [twin brother Jacob Hollister] have talked about it all the time. Control the controllables, and leave the uncontrollables up to God. I feel like we've done that. Go out there asnd control your attitude and your effort, and then leave the rest up to the Lord. That's what we did today, I feel like. There was mistakes, and there was good plays but we controlled what we could control. We trust in the coaches and their decisions, and we trust God with the stuff we can't control."
Jacob Hollister, undrafted rookie tight end, who caught four passes for 26 yards and a touchdown: "It's unbelievable [going through the process with Cody]. Just being able to lean on each other is just crazy. Having your best friend out here, it's such a blessing. It's been an awesome few months being here together. It's just crazy how it worked out."
Austin Carr, undrafted rookie receiver, who caught three passes for 48 yards and a touchdown: "Emotional. No matter what, there’s going to be highs and lows. It almost feels like draft day all over again where you don’t know where you’re going to end up. Again, I’m praying and trusting God. I know that I left it all out there and I’m hoping for another shot."
When the scrum of reporters around Carr began to dissipate following his question-and-answer period, he said, "Hope to stick around."