BEREA — Browns receiver Greg Little is no longer welcome anywhere near the University of North Carolina athletic program.
The university sent letters of “permanent disassociation” dated Nov. 15 to Little and former teammates Marvin Austin and Robert Quinn, according to The Associated Press. The letters state the move is to prevent them from “further embarrassing” the university and “jeopardizing the University’s commitment to full NCAA rules compliance.”
The players are barred from contacting North Carolina athletes, showing up at campus athletic facilities and providing recruiting or financial assistance.
“It is what it is,” Little, who played for Carolina from 2007-09, said Wednesday. “North Carolina’s a great university and I wish things weren’t the way they were and I’ll just continue to support them from afar.”
The players were dismissed during the 2010 season for accepting improper benefits, including cash and travel accommodations. The violations led to NCAA sanctions against the Tar Heels and recent criminal charges against five people for violating the state’s Uniform Athlete Agents Act.
“I think there’s been some wrongful accusing,” Little said. “There’s a lot of people that I’ve hurt, and I think a lot of the blame should be put on me much less than attacking other people.”
Little said he hadn’t seen the letter, but heard the news from agent Drew Rosenhaus. The investigation has been going on for years, and Little wasn’t sure why the university sent out the letters at this time.
“Like I said earlier in the year, I try to stay away from North Carolina, period,” he said. “I just don’t like to bring any kind of distractions or anything like that, but I’ll just continue to support them from afar.”
Little doesn’t face criminal charges because he was a student-athlete.
“I met with the state of North Carolina a little while ago. They said nothing legal will ever be brought up on you,” he said.
The NCAA declared Quinn and Little permanently ineligible in 2010, while the school dismissed Austin from the team. Quinn was a first-round draft pick and is a defensive end for the Rams. Austin, a defensive tackle, is a free agent.
“The integrity of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s intercollegiate athletics program has been damaged through your actions,” states the letter signed by UNC athletic director Bubba Cunningham.
The letters to Little, Austin and Quinn came after documents from the investigation by the North Carolina Secretary of State’s office outlined several violations, The Associated Press reported. In Little’s case, he told investigators he received more than $20,000 from agent Terry Watson in 2010 — including a $2,200 monthly allowance — according to a June search warrant.
Receiver/punt returner Armanti Edwards was placed on injured reserve Wednesday with an ankle injury. He was signed Oct. 30 to replace Travis Benjamin, and returned four punts for 28 yards with a long of 12. He caught a pass for 10 yards and ran once as the Wildcat quarterback for no gain.
Edwards came up lame Sunday and left the game late in the first half.
Coach Rob Chudzinski said rookie defensive back Jordan Poyer, who was claimed off waivers Oct. 21, will return punts. Receiver Davone Bess, who has nine fair catches and four returns, is the second option.
The Browns have been unable to fill the void in the return game left when Benjamin suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament Oct. 27 vs. Kansas City.
“I think you lose somebody like Travis and the ability that he has, certainly it was a shot,” Chudzinski said. “We’re working around that and we have some guys that we feel like can get the job done to the level that we need it to get done. It takes everybody in that regard — the blocking has to improve, the guys on special teams have to improve.”
Receiver Josh Cooper (5-foot-10, 190 pounds) was activated from the practice squad to take Edwards’ place on the roster.
Chudzinski brought up Steelers Week moments after the loss to the Bengals and hasn’t stopped. He thinks the young players have gotten the point.
“I’ve talked a lot about that,” he said. “I think they can tell that this is a rivalry and we’ll continue to educate them over the course of the week if they don’t understand that.
“There’s a real sense of excitement with our team. It’s in the air, in the building.”
Cornerback Joe Haden, in his fourth year, said it takes awhile to appreciate Browns-Steelers.
“You cannot come into it and be ready for it,” he said. “You are not going to get it. You’ve got to experience it and then the next time we play them everybody will know for sure.
“I am trying to do a good job of letting the rookies know, just look around and figure out that the atmosphere is gonna change a little bit when we play Pittsburgh.”
Pittsburgh has owned the Browns recently, winning five of six, 17 of 19 and 23 of 26.
Inside linebacker Craig Robertson (knee sprain) was in a brace and didn’t practice. Tank Carder, who filled in Sunday, took his role with the starters during practice.
“He did a solid job, particularly not getting a lot of reps during the course of the week and stepping in,” Chudzinski said. “He’s been a real plus for us on special teams.”
Chudzinski didn’t rule out Robertson for the Steelers game and said he’d be evaluated throughout the week.
** Rookie defensive end Armonty Bryant, who has two sacks as a rusher in sub packages, didn’t practice after his back tightened up.
** Tight end MarQueis Gray (hamstring) rode the stationary bike.
** For the Steelers, defensive end Brett Keisel (foot) and rookie safety Shamarko Thomas (ankle) didn’t practice. Linebacker LaMarr Woodley (calf), guard Ramon Foster (ankle) and center Fernando Velasco (knee) were limited.
Receiver Emmanuel Sanders (foot), who has 42 catches for 509 yards and two touchdowns, was a full participant.
Fullback Chris Ogbonnaya is a surprise leader in fan voting for the Pro Bowl. Ogbonnaya had 135,692 votes, trailing only Carolina’s Mike Tolbert, who had 182,773, the league announced. There’s no conference affiliation for the first time this year.
No other Browns made the list of top vote-getters. Balloting is open until Dec. 26, and the Pro Bowl list will be announced Dec. 27. Coaches and players also vote.
** Under the NFL’s new bag policy, blankets are allowed to be brought in if draped over the shoulder while entering the stadium. The temperature is expected to be in the 20s Sunday.
** With Edwards out and Gray injured, Bess would be the emergency third quarterback.
** Haden was featured Wednesday in the season premiere of “NFL Rush Zone: Guardians Unleashed” on Nicktoons in an animated persona.
** Receiver Reggie Dunn, a 5-9, 180-pound rookie out of Utah, was signed to the practice squad. He spent time with the Steelers and Packers this year.