April 17, 2014

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Shaun Smith sent packing: Browns D-lineman clashed with Brady Quinn, had just two sacks in two seasons

Brian Dulik
The Chronicle-Telegram

BEREA – Defensive end Shaun Smith always talked a good game, but he didn’t have many of them on the field for the Browns.

And when you’re most famous for punching Brady Quinn in the face, it could be time to move on.

Browns coach Eric Mangini issued Smith a one-way ticket out of town Saturday by cutting the five-year veteran. The move came less than 24 hours after Smith put on an uninspired performance at practice and was openly admonished by defensive line coach Bryan Cox.

“There’s a lot of different factors that go into the consideration,” Mangini said. “You have to move forward. I think Shaun did a good job while he was here.

“We needed to create a roster spot, and that’s what it came down to. We’ll eventually sign a player to the roster spot. We haven’t done that yet.”

While Smith’s release had been expected since his December weight-room fight with quarterback Quinn, the timing was surprising, coming exactly one week into training camp with no mandatory cuts looming.

It left no doubt, though, that Mangini has a much higher standard for player conduct than former coach Romeo Crennel, who did little to keep Smith’s ego in check throughout his two-season, two-sack tenure.

Anytime you lose a teammate or a friend, it’s gonna be tough,” defensive end Robaire Smith said. “But I’m quite sure Shaun knows it’s a business, and this was a coach’s decision. Eventually, all good things must come to an end and it’s a possibility at any time that you’ll be gone.”

Smith signed a four-year, $8.6 million deal as a free agent in 2007 and was expected to play a major role on the rebuilt defensive line. Instead, he squandered many of the opportunities that were handed to him.

The 6-foot-2, 325-pounder started 19 games at DE or nose tackle with the Browns, but all came after the first-stringer at the time was injured (Orpheus Roye, Robaire Smith and Ethan Kelley).

After surviving Mangini’s spring roster purge, Smith reported to training camp noticeably lighter, but was unable to repair his strained relationships within the organization.

The terms of his departure reflected that as the press release announcing his exit consisted of one sentence and 12 words.

“Shaun was a good guy and a friend of mine, but (his release) is not really too much of a ripple,” defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin said. “We just try to work together and get better as a unit every day.”

Rubin’s strong offseason also hastened Smith’s exit, having already moved past him at backup nose tackle. In just one year, the sixth-round draftee has gone from a game-day afterthought to a lock to make the team.

“I’ve liked all the things I’ve seen from him,” Mangini said of the Iowa State product. “Rubin is just a consistent guy. He comes in, works like crazy, is stout against the run, really improved his hand placement. I really like Rubin.”

With Rubin rising, Robaire Smith recovering nicely from a torn Achilles and Kenyon Coleman coming over in a trade from the Jets, the end appeared to be near for Shaun Smith. Yet, no one expected it to come this quickly in camp.

“That’s just the business we’re in, stuff like this happens,” running back Jerome Harrison said. “The first thing I learned when I got here was never to get comfortable with anybody. As a professional athlete, you need to perform. It’s just the time and the situation that sometimes makes the difference.”

Contact Brian Dulik at brisports@hotmail.com.

TODAY

• WHAT: Family Day, Brown and White scrimmage
• TIME: 1 p.m.
• WHERE: Cleveland Browns Stadium
• TICKETS: None. Event is free and open to the public; gates open at 11 a.m.