In surprise move, Packers release Westbrook

During last week's minicamp, defensive back Bryant Westbrook expressed optimism that his surgically repaired right Achilles' tendon would be good to go when training camp commences in July.<p>

The Packers, in a surprise move Thursday, did not give Westbrook the opportunity, releasing the former No. 5 pick in the NFL draft.

The team did not give a reason for its move, but with Westbrook making the league minimum salary it seems clear the safety's uncertain health played the primary role in the decision.

Westbrook was signed in October 2002 as a street free agent after the Cowboys had released him earlier in the season. He made an immediate impact with the Packers, intercepting a pass in a victory at New England a few days after signing.

The impression he made in the second half of the 2002 campaign put Westbrook in position to be the starter at safety opposite Darren Sharper last year. Fully healed after rupturing his left Achilles late in the 2000 season with the Lions, Westbrook showed the willingness to hit and, most importantly, the veteran savvy the secondary had been lacking since LeRoy Butler's retirement.

Instead of being a key contributor to a team with high hopes, Westbrook was lost for the season after tearing his right Achilles during an Aug. 9 preseason game at Atlanta. Still, the Packers handed Westbrook a one-year contract extension about three weeks later.

Westbrook admitted to contemplating retirement but decided to give it another shot, he explained in the locker room last week after watching practice.

"I've never been a quitter. I'm a success story. I want NFL Comeback Player of the Year. That's all I want. Two Achilles? C'mon, man."

By cutting Westbrook before June 1, the Packers cleared his $535,000 base salary from this year's books, as well as a $120,000 roster bonus for a total cap savings of $655,000.

The 29-year-old Westbrook was selected fifth overall in the 1997 draft by the Lions. He has 13 career interceptions.

Without Westbrook last season, the Packers started Antuan Edwards and Marques Anderson. Neither impressed; Edwards was allowed to sign with the Miami Dolphins during the off-season and the Packers signed Mark Roman away from the Bengals to solidify the position. Former cornerback Bhawoh Jue also figures into the mix at the position.

To fill Westbrook's spot on the roster, the Packers signed undrafted rookie wide receiver Chris Day.

The 5-foot-11, 178-pound Grambling product took part in last week's minicamp on a trial basis and apparently opened enough eyes to join a young group of receivers vying for the Nos. 4 and 5 spots on the depth chart.

Day caught 26 passes for 347 yards and five touchdowns as a receiver while spending some time on the other side of the ball as a defensive back. Day returned six kickoffs for 116 yards.

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