A 3-6 team should probably think twice about dropping its leading receiver.
In a surprise move, Johnson, Cleveland’s leading receiver since 1999, was released Tuesday by coach Butch Davis, who benched the wide receiver last week.
Despite leading the Browns with 41 catches for 381 yards this season, Johnson had his starting job taken away by Davis, who was displeased with the 27-year-old’s production.
Two weeks ago in a loss to the San Diego Chargers, Johnson dropped a crucial pass on fourth down in the fourth quarter, cut short a route that led to an interception and underthrew a pass on a reverse that should have been a touchdown.
Davis was also critical of Johnson’s blocking.
“This is not a knee-jerk reaction,” Davis said. “We have been trying for almost three seasons to help Kevin perform to the level of expectations we have had for him. I am disappointed our staff has not been able to get him to accept the expectations we have of how the wide receiver position should be played.”
Johnson, who signed a four-year, $13.35 million contract extension with a $3.5 million signing bonus before last season, had 192 receptions for 2,181 yards and 15 TDs in 41 games under Davis. He signed Wednesday with Jacksonville.
Cleveland has had problems with another of its prominent offensive players. Running back William Green sat out Sunday’s 41-20 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs after being arrested on charges of drunken driving and marijuana possession.
Green was expected back this weekend, but on Thursday, he was suspended for four games by the NFL for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. The Browns said the violation involved the use of alcohol.
Green, who leads Cleveland this season with 559 yards rushing on 142 carries, decided to forgo an appeal, the league said.
Sunday’s loss was the Browns’ third straight and dropped them to 3-6, their worst mark in three seasons under Davis.
Cleveland, though, remains just two games back in the weak AFC North and has seven games left to save its season.
“We’re not out of it,” Browns safety Robert Griffith said. “Everybody wants to roll us over for dead and we’re not.”
Kelly Holcomb started at quarterback for the Browns for the first time since Sept. 21, passing for 149 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He missed three weeks with a leg injury.
Arizona suffered its first loss in three games Sunday, falling 28-15 to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Cardinals have lost nine straight road games. Arizona last won on the road on Oct. 6, 2002, a 16-13 victory over the Carolina Panthers.
Arizona left Sunday’s game with two injuries. Center Pete Kendall was examined Monday at the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix after receiving a neck stinger, and safety Adrian Wilson hurt his right hand.
Results of Kendall’s tests were not immediately available, but coach Dave McGinnis was optimistic. Wilson had his hand X-rayed and put in a cast before the flight home.
The Cardinals have tried to solve their kicking problems by signing Neil Rackers on Tuesday, one day after cutting Tim Duncan.
Rackers kicked for Cincinnati the last three seasons but was one of the final players cut by the Bengals before this season began. His best year was 2002, when he made 15 of 18 field goal tries, and was 13-for-13 inside 45 yards.
Duncan had replaced injured kicker Bill Gramatica, but was cut after missing four of 10 attempts. Duncan also missed a point after in Sunday’s loss to Pittsburgh.
Gramatica is sidelined with a back injury. He tried to kick on Monday but was considerably sore.
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