BEREA (92.3 The Fan) – Fans weren’t the only ones surprised Monday morning by the release of outside linebacker Paul Kruger.
The players were too.
“It was a shock,” cornerback Joe Haden said. “It was a shock. This business, it never surprises you. You always have one or two [players] every year that you kind of scratch your head or it is a dude that you thought that was going to be part of the change, but it’s a business. It’s a tough business.
“My relationship with Paul, that’s one of my best friends on the team. He is a really good dude, and it just happened to go that way. It was definitely a surprise, but things like that happen every single year.”
Haden has seen a lot of change since the Browns drafted him seventh overall in 2010 but the housecleaning this offseason has been a thorough one.
Kruger was the 11th starter from the Jan. 3 season finale against the Steelers that is no longer with the team as the full-on roster gut and youth movement continues.
Last year’s tarting nickel K’Waun Williams was also released Monday and 3-time Pro Bowl punter Andy Lee, who set franchise records for gross and net punting averages last season, was traded to Carolina.
“Let me say this about anybody that we let go – we let people go because there is a performance that we want, not so much just him, I mean everybody,” head coach Hue Jackson said. “When you let players go now, you give them a chance to catch on at other places. I think the respectful thing to do if you don’t see a guy having the potential to make your team, I think the right thing to do is to move forward and move on, and I think that is what we have done.
“I can’t worry about perceptions and what everybody thinks.”
Jackson gave Kruger and others a chance to prove themselves.
“Anybody who came to training camp had an opportunity so it is not like we had already made a decision that we were letting these guys go,” Jackson said. “These guys had opportunities in games to prove themselves to earn a right to be on our football team.”
Cutting Kruger all but secures a starting job for Nate Orchard, a 2015 second round pick and the lone outside linebacker with any sacks in the NFL. He had 3 of them as a rookie.
“That’s out of my control trying to understand what they’re doing upstairs,” Orchard said. “All I can do is control what I can control on the field, off the field and put forth my best effort in all that I do.
“As far as the youth movement, you can see they’re consciously bringing guys in no matter what team you’re playing in and there’s always going to be younger guys up there…it’s all part of the business.”
The move was an eye-opener for rookie Joe Schobert, selected in the fourth round of the 2016 draft. He too will be called upon to fill the void.
“I was surprised,” Schobert said. “It is obviously my first time going through the kind of business side of football. He has been a veteran guy in the room since I’ve been here so not having his veteran presence will be missed for me especially.”
Need The Work – Jackson will play his starters in Thursday night’s exhibition finale against the Bears. The only question is, for how long?
“We are going to play our guys,” Jackson said. “I feel comfortable that we need to play our starters on both sides of the ball. Now, how much they play, that is yet to be determined by me, but I think we are going to play them because we need to play.
“We need to get better as a football team as we continue to move forward.”
New Leg – Kicker Patrick Murray officially won the kicker job according to Jackson.
“He is our kicker and we are going to move forward with him,” Jackson said.
Murray, who spent the 2015 season on injured reserve with Tampa Bay, beat out last year’s kicker Travis Coons, who made 28 field goals and had all 4 misses come off blocked kicks. The coaching staff wanted Coons to work on elevation on his kicks but he was cut Monday.
As for those concerned about his ability to kick at FirstEnergy Stadium, Murray cited his experience in kicking in wind and bad weather – including a blizzard – throughout his career dating back to high school as to why he’s up to the task in Cleveland.
Moving On – The trade of Barkevious Mingo last week to New England was a needed change of scenery – for both sides.
“It was the right move for everybody involved,” Jackson said. “Mingo here, some things weren’t happening for him. I understand that. He is a tremendous young man. I really enjoyed my time with him, but we didn’t see a fit for him. We tried to move him to a lot of different spots. He played outside backer. We moved him inside.
“It is unfortunate it just didn’t work. It was an opportunity for him to be in a better situation and an opportunity for us to get better, too. I think it was the best opportunity for both involved.”
Injury Report – CB Justin Gilbert (concussion), WR Marlon Moore (hip), CB Tramon Williams (toe), RB Raheem Mostert (hamstring) did not practice.