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Updated: September 6th, 2011 11:16pm
Pelissero: Cutting Chris DeGeare a reminder perception changes quickly

Pelissero: Cutting Chris DeGeare a reminder perception changes quickly

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by Tom Pelissero
1500ESPN.com

It happens every year in NFL camps, a presumed starter losing the job and ending up on the street.

It doesn't happen nearly so often to young players who so recently appeared to be on the come.

That's what made it so startling to see Chris DeGeare's name among the 25 players the Minnesota Vikings cut on Saturday.

"Definitely, I was shocked, too," DeGeare said this week. "But I'm a young player and I'm still learning this part of the business."

A fifth-round draft pick in 2010, DeGeare started the last five games at left guard as a rookie last season, improving steadily over the last three.

He arrived at camp in July as the first-string right guard and appeared to have a good shot at taking the job while Anthony Herrera recovered from knee reconstruction.

DeGeare had to improve his conditioning and drop some weight, sure, but didn't almost everyone?

No glaring errors appeared on tape from the Vikings' preseason opener on Aug. 13 at Tennessee, yet DeGeare was moved to right tackle and demoted to the second string the next day.

"They never gave me a clear explanation of what it was," DeGeare said. "I think it could have been the weight, but the weight's fine now. I couldn't really give you a definite answer on what it was. They must have found something."

So must the rest of the NFL. After 31 other teams passed when DeGeare and his reasonable $491,200 cap number passed through waivers, he re-signed to the Vikings' practice squad.

Ryan Cook didn't fall that far. The veteran offensive lineman signed with the Miami Dolphins on Monday, two days after he joined DeGeare as the most surprising names on the Vikings' cut list.

"We just felt like with the guys we were able to keep," coach Leslie Frazier said, "that they'd done enough in training camp that they gained our confidence that they could do it in regular-season games."

None of them have done it, though. Of the five backup offensive linemen the Vikings kept, only backup center Jon Cooper has started a game.

Seth Olsen, now the top backup guard, played in three games as a backup with Denver in 2009.

Patrick Brown, now the top backup tackle, already qualifies as a journeyman without a regular-season appearance.

Brandon Fusco and DeMarcus Love are rookies kept not because they're ready to contribute, but because their ceiling is too high as developmental players to risk exposing them to waivers.

"You wonder if they're just trying to get young, in terms of salary structure, too," a personnel director for an AFC team said.

"You're trying to balance out how you manage your cap situation -- not just collectively as a whole, as a team, but how you wanted to pull your resources by positional groups, too. When you look at their depth, they have young, inexpensive depth behind their starters."

That explanation works with Cook, who received a reported $125,000 bonus on the two-year contract he signed to return to the Vikings on Aug. 3.

Those types of cuts are unusual, too -- do a deal with a guy, then cut him loose -- but the Vikings know what Cook can and can't do after five NFL seasons.

DeGeare has struggled to stay on the field. He suspects the concussion that ended his preseason on Aug. 27 contributed to the Vikings' decision to cut him loose.

When DeGeare was healthy last season, he showed he's capable of playing well enough to be an NFL starter. That no one in the league thought he was even capable of being a reliable backup shows how quickly perception can change.

"They wanted me to come to the practice squad," DeGeare said. "There's still room for more mobility. There's still room for me to work myself back up to the 53. I don't look at it as a negative thing.

"Of course, I'll learn from it. But there's still potential to be out there and play on Sunday."

Tom Pelissero is Senior Editor and columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He hosts from 6 to 8 p.m. weeknights and co-hosts from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Tom | @TomPelissero | Tom Pelissero
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