Early Tuesday afternoon the Cleveland Brown announce that they were releasing running back Ben Tate, a few hours later the Pittsburgh Steelers released veteran running back LeGarrette Blount. Players get released during the season, it happens. What is surprising is veteran, proven players being released by two teams who are competing against each other for the AFC North division title.
While some will surely point to their releases as further evidence of the devaluing of the running back position, I do not feel that is the case. Both players have played well in the past, both are being outplayed by younger players. Second year player Le’veon Bell’s play has limited touches for Blount in the Steelers offense, while rookie Terrance West has replaced Tate as the starter in Cleveland. That does not mean these teams do not value their running backs, they just do not value Blount or Tate.
So why the release now.
Teams often put up with an attitude from their stars. You only have to look at the odd behavior sometimes seen from Marshawn Lynch for the Seattle Seahawks. The problem is if you are not that star you have a much shorter leash.
Both players had complained to some extent about their roles in their teams offenses of late, Blount even going as far as leaving the field before the end of the Steelers comeback win against the Tennessee Titans Monday night. At some point complaints become a distraction. Teams want passionate players, they do not want distractions. Distractions get let go.
This should be a warning sign for other players in the NFL and even more so for college players hoping for a career in the league. It has always been not-for-long that has never been more true than now. With the added focus on players behavior off the field of late, being part of the team is more important than ever.
While the league will always reward stars, divas who rock the boat may find the ride shorter than ever.