Rookie LB Walcott Released From Browns Following Arrest
By Steven King
Sometimes a player’s timing is perfect. Sometimes it’s horrible. And sometimes, it can be both.
That’s the way it is with former Cleveland Browns rookie LB Ausar Walcott. The Browns released him on Wednesday, a day after he was charged with attempted murder. Walcott was arrested after punching a man outside a strip club in Passaic, N.J. early Sunday morning.
The victim, Derrick Jones, 24, remains hospitalized in critical condition.
The whirlwind series of events ends what had been a nice story. Walcott, a University of Virginia product who was not taken in the 2013 NFL Draft, had been signed by Cleveland on May 13 after he was impressive in a tryout. He participated in the team’s full-squad minicamp three weeks ago and was set to take the next step on his improbable journey when training camp begins on July 25. Instead, he’ll be trying to win his freedom.
This is not Walcott’s first off-the-field issue. Virginia suspended him for a short time after he was arrested for a fight outside James Madison University. However, the charges were eventually dropped.
The timing of Walcott’s recent issue was a positive in one way, though. The news of what had happened roared it way through Cleveland and Northeast Ohio just as the annual NFL Rookie Symposium was being held in the area for those players drafted this year. Part of the symposium includes advice for the rookies on how to handle themselves and stay out of trouble.
As such, Walcott’s arrest – and that of former New England Patriots TE Aaron Hernandez on Wednesday, also on murder charges – served as real and timely examples to the rookies attending the symposium of some of the more serious problems players can face. Hopefully, what happened with Walcott and Hernandez can serve as lessons to help keep the rookies out of trouble.
Walcott had been hoping that a possible rags-to-riches climb on the field would be his legacy,
But Walcott is hardly the only member of the Browns – former or current -- who is in the news for all the wrong reasons. The offseason has been filled with troubling issues, so much so that what has been happening off the field is almost more compelling – and more important in the big picture – than what has been happening on it.
Josh Gordon, the team’s top wide receiver, has been suspended for the first two games of the season by the NFL for violating its substance-abuse policy. He will also miss two additional game checks and is possibly one misdeed away from being suspended for a year. Gordon also had drug problems in college.
Not long after he thanked the Browns for drafting him and promising that he would not disappoint them, seventh-round pick DL Armonty Bryant was arrested on DUI charges. He too had drug problems in college.
Free-agent LB Quentin Groves was arrested in a prostitution sting and charged with solicitation. An unflattering mug shot of free-agent DL Desmond Bryant went viral after he was arrested on a misdemeanor criminal mischief charge for allegedly showing up drunk and shirtless at a Florida family’s home.
But the biggest issue – and one that has cast a real cloud over the entire organization – is the ongoing FBI investigation into club owner Jimmy Haslam’s Pilot Flying J travel centers business for allegedly scamming clients in the issuing of fuel rebates.
Indeed, it has not been the offseason that Haslam – or Cleveland fans – wanted when his purchase of the team became official last Oct. 16. The Browns are thus looking forward to the start of camp in a month so they can get to work on the field and put some of these off-the-field situations on the back-burner, at least for a while anyway.