The Browns have cut veteran defensive lineman Shaun Smith, maybe not because of his ability on the field but his inability to toe the line.
In his third year with the Browns and his sixth in the NFL, Smith started 19 of 32 games in his two seasons in Cleveland, including nine last year. He had spent almost all of his first three seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals after being signed as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2004.
Smith always said exactly what he thought and at times also did exactly what he wanted to, even if it ran against the grain, and that may have been the reason why he was released. There was an incident midway through Friday's second practice when Smith walked off the field instead of running with the rest of the rest of the defensive lineman to a place in a side area where they were going to go through some drills.
"Come on, dog, you're walking on me," no-nonsense defensive line coach Bryan Cox finally said to Smith while the rest of the group waited on him.
Smith said something back that could not be heard by about five media people standing nearby. Smith went through the motions during the drills, and Cox told him, "If you've got a problem, something wrong with your back, you go need to get some treatment." Then Cox called a trainer over to check on Smith, but Smith didn't seem to want any medical attention and the trainer eventually left.
Smith then spent time working – and talking – with several teammates, including Robaire Smith, who appeared to try to give him a pep talk. After the drills were over and the linemen ran back out onto the field to join the rest of the club for more team work, Smith and Cox spent a couple minutes talking face to face.
That was the last anyone saw of Smith.
"Cutting a player is never easy, but we needed to open up a roster spot," Browns head coach Eric Mangini said before Saturday's practice.
Mangini, who does not seem to have much tolerance for outspoken players such as Smith, said the Browns have not signed the player they want to fill that roster spot with.
"Shaun did a good job while he was here," Mangini said. He said he considered in his decision only the time he spent with Smith, not what occurred in the 2007 and '08 seasons during the Romeo Crennel/Phil Savage regime.
And one of the things that may have weighed heavily in that consideration is what occurred in Friday evening's practice, when Mangini may have finally tired of Smith's behavior.
This is not the first time this has happened. Rookie defensive back Brian Williams of the University of Akron was cut in the spring a couple days after he shuffled along, instead of jogging or sprinting, when ordered to run a lap around the field as punishment for making a mistake in practice.
A word to the wise – those still left on this team – is that Mangini is in firm control of the Browns. He will tolerate some things, but when push comes to shove, it's his way or the highway.
And maybe the Browns, who lacked discipline the last four non-playoff seasons under nice-guy Crennel, desperately needed that.