FOXBORO -- If Tom Brady hates this week of cuts, imagine how his teammates feel.
By 4 p.m. today, the Patriots will have to trim their roster to 75 players. By the weekend, that number will be further shrunk down to 53. After carrying close to 90 players all throughout training camp, the mass of humanity that has inhabited the New England locker room will nearly be cut in half in a matter of days.
Because everyone knows what's coming, there is a cloud of tension that hangs over the New England locker room this week -- especially for the players who aren't afforded the same kind of security that someone like Brady enjoys.
"I would definitely say so," said second-year edge defender Michael Buchanan. "A lot of guys who are here aren’t going to be here anymore. I’ve kind of been down this road before, so I feel a little more comfortable."
Still, Buchanan and others know that there is very little guaranteed at this point in the preseason. Players came to work on Monday and find a trio of their talented veteran teammates -- defensive tackle Tommy Kelly, defensive end Will Smith and linebacker James Anderson -- had all been released.
"It's a tough league," said linebacker Darius Fleming. "I don't think anything surprises anybody when things happen like that . . . Everybody knows it's coming. It's part of the game. You just can't think about it. You gotta keep going."
Friday's game with the Panthers was the last shot for many players to make an impression in a game situation. But those who know they aren't roster locks have used every meeting and practice after that as a proving ground. If there's any hint of improvement that they can show the coaching staff, any glimmer of value that the team hadn't otherwise seen, they'll take whatever opportunity they get to do it.
"Every day is a test," said running back Jonas Gray. "Every time I'm out there, it's a test to be better than the day before. Be consistent, show them everything I can do. Everyday is a test for me personally."
For a more veteran player, like third-year receiver Brian Tyms, the feeling this week isn't as nerve-wracking. His career is proof that there is life after a week of cuts. He's made a home in the locker rooms of the 49ers, Dolphins and Browns before landing in Foxboro this summer.
“You really couldn’t tell if you actually chilled in here for a minute," Tyms said of the anxiety in the room this week. "It’s kind of like a family thing here. Everybody still does the same stuff. I’ve been cut three times. It’s not the end of the world. It’s just God has a different plan for you. Around this locker room, nobody’s really talking about it.”
But it's on their minds.
"You try to make it where it's not, but you think about it," Fleming said. "You try your best not to. You try to focus on the things you can control, but it's gonna come into your mind. You're gonna start thinking about things in your mind, how you fit in, but you can't. You don't know what they're thinking, you don't know what the situation would be. You just kind of have to let it be and leave it alone."