NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE NOTES
Browns release CB Joe Haden after 7 seasons
Too expensive and too-often injured, Joe Haden is no longer part of Cleveland's long-term plans. The two-time Pro Bowl cornerback, who had gone from being one of the city's most popular players to polarizing, was released Wednesday after the team couldn't trade him or persuade him to take a pay cut. "We want to thank Joe for all he has done for this organization both on and off the field," said Sashi Brown, executive vice president of football operations. "He has been a great teammate and a true asset to the Cleveland community. These are very difficult decisions, we have the utmost respect for Joe and in my eyes, he will always be a Cleveland Brown." A first-round pick in 2010, Haden has been slowed by injuries the past two seasons and the Browns felt he was no longer one of their top defensive backs. Cleveland, which is in need of a wide receiver, had shopped Haden but couldn't find a partner, mostly because he'll make $11.1 million this season and has two more seasons left on a five-year, $67.5 million extension — $45 million guaranteed — he signed in 2014. Despite Haden's slip in production, coach Hue Jackson said Tuesday that he felt Haden had played well this summer. Not well enough to keep him around, however. "Joe gave everything he had for the Cleveland Browns and that's all you can ask for as a coach," Jackson said in a statement. "He was a leader on and off the field. I wish him all the best as he continues his career." Haden played in just 18 games — he missed 11 in 2015 with a concussion — the past two seasons because of injuries, fighting to stay on the field each week last season despite a serious groin injury that required offseason surgery. New defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and his staff didn't view Haden as an asset and will likely move veteran Jason McCourty into his starting spot alongside Jamar Taylor. A former Florida standout, Haden was one of Cleveland's most visible players. He often attended Cavaliers games and sat courtside to cheer on LeBron James and his teammates. Haden owned a sneaker store in downtown Cleveland, hosted youth camps in Northeast Ohio and in 2015 became the first professional football player to serve as a Special Olympics global ambassador. Haden posted a thank-you to Cleveland fans on his Instagram account. "I would first like to take the time to thank the Browns fans all around the world from the bottom of my heart for making Cleveland a happy home for me for the past 7 years," Haden wrote. "I also want to thank the coaches, the organization and especially my teammates who have become family. My God doesn't make mistakes and I know the future is bright." Haden appeared in 90 games for the Browns, starting 81. He compiled 376 tackles, 101 passes defensed, 19 interceptions, forced four fumbles and four recovered fumbles. Last season, he recorded 48 tackles, 11 passes defensed and tied for a team-high three interceptions. The Browns made their final move with offensive lineman Cam Erving, another of the team's first-round busts. Erving, who was shifted from guard to center to tackle during two seasons with Cleveland, was traded Wednesday to the Kansas City Chiefs for a 2018 fifth-round draft pick. It ends a disappointing stay in Cleveland for the No. 19 overall pick in 2015. Erving's versatility had attracted him to the Browns, who were convinced the former Florida State standout could be a building block in their turnaround. However, Erving struggled wherever the Browns put him and the team decided to cut ties with their second first-round pick in hours. Since 2011, seven players drafted by the Browns in the first round are no longer with the team. Erving joins an inglorious list includes Johnny Manziel, Trent Richardson, Brandon Weeden and Barkevious Mingo.
Elliott appeal over domestic case headed for 2nd day
Dallas running back Ezekiel Elliott's appeal of his six-game suspension for domestic violence is headed for a second day with no timeline for completion of the hearing. The appeal before arbitrator Harold Henderson is held at an undisclosed location. The NFL suspended its 2016 rushing leader after concluding he was physically abusive toward his then-girlfriend in Ohio last summer. Prosecutors declined to pursue the case. The league's letter detailing the suspension also noted video of Elliott pulling down a woman's shirt and exposing her breast during a St. Patrick's Day parade in Dallas. The NFL said it wasn't considered in the six-game ban, but indicated a pattern of poor behavior. Elliott, who had 1,631 yards rushing as a rookie, made his only appearance of the preseason last week at home against Oakland.
Suspension for Bengals LB Burfict reduced
Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict had his NFL suspension reduced from five to three games for his egregious hit on a Chiefs running back during a preseason game. During the second preseason game, Burfict leveled running back Anthony Sherman on a pass play when he wasn't the intended target. Burfict appealed and had two games shaved off the punishment. He'll miss home games against the Ravens and Texans and a road game with the Packers. He'll be eligible to return for a game in Cleveland on Oct. 1. It's the second straight season he's suspended for the first three games. He was suspended last season for his hit to Antonio Brown's head during a 2015 playoff loss to the Steelers.
Gilchrist selected to Bills' Wall of Fame
Running back Carlton Chester "Cookie" Gilchrist is getting his place on the Buffalo Bills' Wall of Fame in a nod to the franchise's American Football League heyday. Gilchrist, who died at the age of 75 in January 2011, will become the 31st member added to the wall ringing New Era Field during Buffalo's home against Oakland on Oct. 29. Though he only played three seasons in Buffalo from 1962-64, Gilchrist was a 251-pound bruiser whose ferocious running style drew comparisons to Jim Brown. Gilchrist's grit and single-mindedness extended beyond the field as he took stands against racism and wasn't afraid to demand better contracts. He was the AFL's player of the year in 1962, when he had 1,096 yards rushing and a league-leading 13 touchdowns. In 1964, Gilchrist and quarterback Jack Kemp led the Bills to their first of two straight AFL championships.
Eric Dickerson retires with the Rams
Eric Dickerson has signed a one-day contract to retire as a member of the Los Angeles Rams, reuniting the famous running back with his first NFL franchise. The Rams formalized the deal at their training complex Tuesday, with Dickerson wearing his Hall of Fame blazer to complete the paperwork. Dickerson set the single-season NFL rushing record and suited up for four playoff teams during his tenure with the Rams from 1983-87. He is still among the most popular players in franchise history, with his jersey frequently outnumbering those of any current player in the Coliseum stands. "I'm really happy for this moment, because even when I left the Rams, I was always a Ram," Dickerson said. "I was always a Los Angeles Ram. I never wanted to leave this football team when I got traded. My heart was broken, just like a lot of fans' hearts were broken that day." Dickerson also became a vice president of business development with the Rams, who returned home to Los Angeles last year after 21 seasons in St. Louis. Dickerson will be involved in fan outreach efforts as the Rams attempt to cement their primacy in Southern California after the relocation of the Chargers. The 56-year-old Dickerson and the Rams have healed the rift created last year by former coach Jeff Fisher's reaction to Dickerson's criticism of the team while the Rams went 4-12.
Browns cornerback Joe Haden walks off the field after an NFL preseason game against the Giants on Aug. 21 in Cleveland. Haden was released on Wednesday.