The Cleveland Browns announced this afternoon that they have released offensive lineman LeCharles Bentley, less than 24 hours after welcoming the offensive lineman back to the field.
On Tuesday afternoon, Bentley proclaimed in comments to the media that he planned to start somewhere in the NFL this season, statements which indicated a pretty significant disconnect between player and organization.
After this morning's practice, Bentley requested a meeting with the Browns brass, and talked with head coach Romeo Crennel and GM Phil Savage. Without giving any reasons for his request, Bentley asked for his release from the team. Savage told the media this afternoon that the Browns "felt compelled" to honor his request and allow the lineman to leave.
During a seven-minute meeting with the media, Savage did not elaborate as to why the Browns gave in so easily to Bentley's request. After two years of rehab, the lineman is now a free agent.
While not explicitly discussed by the team today, Bentley's desire to play and start immediately clearly did not jive with the Browns cautious approach to dealing with the lineman. As had been reported numerous times on the Orange and Brown Report in past months, the Browns were taking a "wait-and-see" tack with the lineman, and hoped to see whether or not his knee would hold up when contact began. The OBR has been advising caution with respect to Bentley's potential, due to what we had learned from team sources, questions about Bentley's ability to take punishment, the team's concern about liability, and risk to the entire offensive line if the the team depended too much on Bentley's contributions.
The mismatch in expectations was bound to cause trouble, which arrived faster than expected.
Seemingly upset about the team's plans, Bentley missed a team meeting and practice this morning. Within several hours, internet reports were saying that Bentley had either retired or been released by the club.
Playing with the Browns was to be a happy hometown ending for Bentley, who had played high school ball at St. Ignatius and college football at Ohio State. After being drafted by the New Orleans Saints and excelling with them, Bentley was the prize signing of the 2006 free agent class.
Nothing went well after the heady few days where Bentley was proclaimed a building block for the franchise. On the first play of training camp in August 2006, Bentley tore a patellar tendon and was taken off the field. A staph infection - one of many suffered by Browns players - nearly resulted in the loss of the leg entirely.
The offensive lineman then chose to rehab away from the Browns facility, a decision which did not appear to put him in the good graces of the franchise. Despite the team's constant downplaying of Bentley's potential to return, it appeared that player and team had reached common ground on Tuesday as mini-camp began. Pushing aside several years of what appeared to be subtle conflict between the two, the team announced that had passed his physical and that he was approved to practice individual drills with the Browns.
A day later, Bentley was leaving the Berea training facility with his suitcase in his hand, headed off to an uncertain future.
OBR Football Analyst Lane Adkins contributed to this report.