Final preseason game meaningless? Not for these guys

Kevin Hardy - Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The score of Thursday's Giants-Patriots game won't mean anything. For many of the players, however, it could be either the end or the beginning of an NFL career.

Many consider the final NFL preseason game to be meaningless. Starters, if they play at all, make a quick cameo while the game is mostly played by reserves and players who won't be on the roster 24-48 hours later.

The final preseason game, though, is far from meaningless. It takes a full 53-man roster to win in the NFL, and with injuries probably many more players than that. How to fill out the end of the roster is a difficult and critical decision for teams who hope to vie for playoff berths.

Oh, and then there is the small matter of what the final preseason game means to players on what is commonly called the 'roster bubble.' Sports On Earth recently explained it this way:

Meaningless? Meaningless? I'll tell you what a meaningless NFL game is: Game two of the regular season, when no matter what the outcome, your team is still in it. Or game 15 when your team is 3-11 and all that's at stake is who next year's head coach is (hopefully neither a former Belichick assistant or anyone named Ryan).

But a preseason game? When every play in the second half constitutes a life-determining drama for any of dozens of these guys? When if the walk-on from East Carolina makes a catch, turns upfield, jukes two guys and gains 32, even if he gets cut, another team picks him up, puts him on the practice squad, and he's in the NFL and living the dream? But if he drops it, even though it was right in the breadbasket, he's now looking at three years with the New Orleans VooDoo of the NET10 Wireless Arena Football League, if he's lucky, followed by hooking on as an assistant manager at a Foot Locker in Metairie?

Let's look at the New York Giants on the bubble for Thursday's game against the New England Patriots.

Think the game means nothing to quarterbacks David Carr and Curtis Painter? One, maybe both, is going to be out of work by the weekend.

How about running backs Da'Rel Scott and Ryan Torain? Those guys might not get another NFL opportunity if they don't stick with the Giants.

At wide receiver there might still be a spot to be won, with Kevin Hardy and Ramses Barden fighting for it. Hardy did not play against the New York Jets and might not get a chance anywhere else. He likely looks at Thursday's meaningless game as the most important one he has ever suited up for.

On the defensive line, the Giants have a deep, talented group at end and tackle. Thursday night will go a long way toward determining which ones sticks around.

In the secondary, Trumaine McBride, Terrence Frederick, Charles James and David Caldwell are fighting for their NFL lives.

So, the score of the game means nothing. To many of the players, however, it might be the difference between continuing to be an NFL player or moving on to another walk of life

Meaningless? Hardly.

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