The Cleveland Browns have cut veteran running back Jamal Lewis from the roster. Lewis, who announced mid-season that he would retire after the campaign, is not ruling out playing again. According to his agent, Jamal does not want to end his career on an injury and is most interested in joining the ranks of a contender in the upcoming season.
The release of Lewis by the Browns is no surprise. He was highly critical of Mangini throughout the season. He did not play the last several games because of post-concussion symptoms (in fact, even after the season ended, Lewis claimed to the media that he still was suffering headaches and blurred vision). Finally, the rise of Jerome Harrison in the final winning stretch of the orange and brown solidified the fact that the Browns and Jamal would part ways this off-season.
We wish Jamal all the best with his health and his future career, if any. We certainly do not carry any bitterness about him wanting to return to the League notwithstanding his pledge to retire. That is the business of sport. We are, however, rather disappointed that such a leader and gritty player would allow himself to become somewhat of a distraction this year in terms of his public criticism of Mangini. On the field, Lewis has had a stellar career and deserves full credit for that.
We are excited about the opportunity that this gives the Browns. Make no mistake, Jamal’s veteran status and leadership skills are the only things that got him a roster spot at all last season. If the decision were made strictly on talent on the gridiron, Jamal would have been cut. His legs are tired. His stamina is really showing the years. His patented explosive abilities through the hole are gone. Without Jamal, Harrison will continue to blossom. Jennings and Davis will get more playing time. And when we need real brute power in short yardage and goal-line situations, we can rely upon one of the very best fullbacks in recent years in the NFL – Lawrence Vickers. Those of you who frequent this website will know that we are big fans of Vickers. We make no apologies for that. He is vastly underrated and underappreciated (although every now and then some discerning commentator or analyst places Vickers near the top of the list among NFL fullbacks). Lawrence can block well; he is an extremely sure-handed receiver out of the backfield; and he runs like a freight train when he gets the chance (not often enough in our opinion). The players really like him. He is completely unselfish and a total team player on the grass and on the sidelines.
Some have advocated that the Browns need a big, bruising running back. We disagree. We did just fine with Harrison in the final weeks of the season. We have a lot of needs far more important than another running back.