Thursday, February 27, 2003

Rudd among veterans cut by Browns

By Tom Withers
The Associated Press

CLEVELAND - Dwayne Rudd might have been penalized again for ripping off his helmet. The linebacker, who cost the Cleveland Browns a sure win over Kansas City last season for taking off his helmet and throwing it on the field, was one of three veterans released by the club on Wednesday.

Center Dave Wohlabaugh and cornerback Corey Fuller - starters since the Browns' 1999 expansion season - also were released in moves coach Butch Davis said were dictated by finances.

However, some think Davis never forgave Rudd for his boneheaded play last season.

The Browns, who were about $23 million over the projected $75 million salary cap, can save more money if they choose not to pay roster bonuses to linebackers Jamir Miller and Earl Holmes.

Team president Carmen Policy has already said the Browns will not give Miller a $14 million bonus. The team is willing to let the former Pro Bowl player test the free agent market.

Holmes, the club's leading tackler last season, is due a $1 million bonus by Friday.

"These were tough decisions to make, but we had to make these moves in order to get under the salary cap," Davis said. "Each of these players has contributed significantly to the success of the Cleveland Browns, and we are not necessarily ruling out a return to the team for some of them in the future."

Don't bet on the 27-year-old Rudd to be one of them.

He struggled last season after being ridiculed nationally for his infamous play in the Sept. 8 loss.

Thinking the game had ended with his sack of Kansas City quarterback Trent Green, Rudd ripped off his helmet and flung it in celebration. He had his back turned to Green and didn't see the QB alertly flip the ball to a Chiefs lineman, who ran it into range for Kansas City to kick a game-winning field goal.

Rudd admitted to his mistake and never dodged a question about it. However, his play seemed to suffer and he was a nonfactor most of the season.

Rudd, who signed with the Browns as a free agent in 2001 and was to make $4 million, did make two big plays during Cleveland's last-second goal-line stand in a season finale win over Atlanta that helped put the Browns in the playoffs.

In other moves, the Browns said they will keep defensive tackle Orpheus Roye, who will get a $1.25 million roster bonus.

In addition, the club virtually locked up running back Jamel White by giving him a tender offer of $1.3 million. The versatile White can test the market as a restricted free agent, but if he signs elsewhere, the Browns can match the offer.

If Cleveland chooses not to match it, it would receive a first-round draft pick as compensation.

The 31-year-old Wohlabaugh was one of the club's big free agent signings. He was consistent, and even played while wearing a cast on his broken right hand last season.

However, when the Browns drafted center Melvin Fowler in the third round last season it appeared Wohlabaugh's days in Cleveland were numbered.

Wohlabaugh's age and his $3.7 million salary - $4.5 million against the cap - made him expendable.

Fuller restructured his contract to stay with the Browns last season, and played well despite being slowed by a leg injury that forced him to miss four games.

Fuller, who will turn 32 in May, was due a $1 million roster bonus. He has said he would like to stay in Cleveland and may re-sign with the team as a free agent.

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