Estonia's sole representative in the National Football League, defensive linesman Margus Hunt, was temporarily "fired" from his new team, the New Orleans Saints, only to be later reinstated. The development happened as teams scramble to get their squads cut down to 53, the maximum permitted, ahead of the new season starting on Sunday.
"Yes, I was fired, but only to get the team cut down to 53 men in time," Hunt, who was released by his previous team, the Indianapolis Colts, in March, told Delfi's sports portal.
"Then I got a call from Saints management. They said they needed to move the men around and I would be brought back by Monday at the latest," he added.
The situation was made even more difficult this year by the fact that no pre-season games took place, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and its after-effects. The four games are generally used to evaluate squads ahead of the full, regular season, after the required cuts are made.
The Saints had around 80 players on its books before paring it down to 53, Delfi Sport says (link in Estonian).
Hunt, 33, from Karksi-Nuia, Viljandi County, said that his age was also a factor in the Saints seeing him as a safe pair of hands.
"Because I'm a veteran, other teams can't automatically hire me after being removed from the list, and the Saints can be sure I'm going anywhere. That kind of system is used all the time in the NFL," he added.
The Saints face NFC South divisional rivals the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who now have legendary quarterback Tom Brady at the helm, in the opening game of the season on September 13. As has been the case with the MLB, many NFL teams, including the Saints, will not be admitting crowds to their opening games, with plans in place to review the situation. Other teams will significantly limit crowd sizes.
Hunt, who started his NFL career with the Cincinnati Bengals, did not get a regular start with the Colts, whose early-season form faded as the team failed to make the playoffs.
He is one of two Estonian-born players to have plied their trade in the NFL to date; former Tennessee Titans offensive linesman Michael Roos is Estonian-born, emigrating to the U.S. at a young age.
Estonian-Americans to have played in the NFL include Chuck Ehin, also a defensive linesman, who played for the San Diego (now Los Angeles) Chargers in the 1980s.
Editor: Andrew Whyte