A difference of opinion

With no game this week to distract us, all we have to talk about is Ed Johnson.  What’s interesting is how two of the primary sources for Colts information differ in their opinions of the move to release Big Ed.

First note how Oehser handles his surprise:

One thing that really wasn’t discussed by Colts players or Caldwell were a couple of fairly obvious questions — one being, ‘If Johnson was playing poorly enough to be released why was he starting?’ and the other being “Are there really four tackles on the roster better than Johnson?”

The cynics among us will believe that because of those questions there is more to the release than the Colts are saying, and perhaps that’s true. But the reality is the Colts were up front in the wake of Johnson’s release last season, and while the Colts aren’t always as forthcoming on injuries as we in the media might like, Caldwell is absolutely not a liar. If he says production was the issue, I believe it.

What does trouble me is his reports about how the players feel about the move.  It sounds like this was not a popular move in the locker room:

“Obviously, it’s very, very unfortunate,” Freeney said. “You never want to see a guy who’s been around not here with you. As players, we can’t decide who’s there and who’s not. I’m sure upper management had their reasons for whatever they decided to do. We just have to line up on Sundays and whoever’s there we have do deal with it regardless of what we feel about it.”

Freeney went on to say, “I was surprised to see it happened. Obviously, he’s here today and gone tomorrow. That’s part of the NFL. It’s unfortunate. He’s a brother. He’s one of us. Life moves on and when things move on, you have to carry on. That’s why the upper management – everybody has their place. That’s their job, to make those decisions. Our job is to go out on the field and make plays and help this team win. That’s what we’re going to focus on no matter who’s there or not.”

Make no mistake:

This was a tough day for Freeney. This was a tough day for many Colts players

On the other side of the fence is Phil B Wilson:

I can’t deny the inclination, as others have suggested, that there’s more to the Johnson release than what has been publicly stated. If Johnson failed a drug test, violated his probation or this had something to do with an off-field issue, I don’t see why the team would want to publicize this. First, the team can’t be thrilled about admitting it was wrong about the guy again, especially if he did something stupid. Second, we live in a world where it’s all about political correctness as far as confidentiality stuff goes. If Johnson had an off-field misstep, it’s not legally wise for the team to discuss details.

But the part that doesn’t add up, as most have asked, is why start a guy for four games this season, and also why bring him back after he let the team down once before, then release him and say it was performance? If it truly was based on his play, do you mean to tell me that LT Tony Ugoh and CB Tim Jennings aren’t on that short list, too? I could hear someone say, “Well, we’re thin at offensive line and cornerback and can’t afford to get rid of either guy, regardless of performance.” Perhaps, but Moala had yet to see the field. They started a guy who supposedly wasn’t getting it done instead of throwing a rookie into the fire to see what he’s made of. Nope, it doesn’t make sense…

The hunch is that we will have to wait a while before the rest of the story comes out. As another blogger suggested to me, if Johnson signs somewhere else, then maybe it was just performance. But if he doesn’t get a sniff, then it’s reasonable to surmise the guy had another off-field issue, was possibly going to get suspended again, and enough is enough.

I don’t quite see Wilson’s comparisons to Ugoh and Jennings.  Jennings struggles, sure.  He also works hard and makes plays.  As for Ugoh, I think he’s hurt.  I don’t think the team wants to cut him until they are sure he’s useless.  He found a rhythm (before getting hurt again) on Sunday night.

On top of everything else is this report by PFT stating that a grievance filed by Johnson was the reason for the dismissal

Per a league source, the team only told Johnson that he weighed in at 320 pounds, three more than his target, and that the team was letting him go.

And so there’s a belief that Johnson was dumped because of the grievance that he filed after being cut by the team in 2008 following an arrest for marijuana possession.  The grievance contends that the teams have no authority to discipline players for violations of the substance-abuse policy. 

Per the source, the Colts asked Johnson to drop the grievance when he was re-signed in May.  He refused, and we’re told that the team wasn’t happy about it.

So there could now be another grievance — and that’s why the Colts are pointing only to Johnson’s performance as the reason for the decision.

Regardless of whether it really was.

Thanks Florio.  Too bad he never seems to know anything about the Colts and routinely accuses them of conspiracies.  Cutting Johnson because he was overweight and not playing well makes a lot of sense.  The part about the grievance makes no sense.  They asked him to drop it in May when they resigned him, but only now they cut him for not doing it?  That defies logic.  Why would they have ever signed him back in the first place if that was the case?  Secondly, why is there no report anywhere that a grievance was ever filed?  I can’t find any record anywhere saying that Johnson filed a complaint about his dismissal.  If he had, wouldn’t it have been resolved by now? Sounds like an agent made a phone call to help his player to me.

I’ve stated my point of view.  I’m taking this at face value for the following reasons:

1.  Ed hasn’t played well.  The evidence for it is on the tape and in the numbers.  The Colts had a ready replacement for him who has battled some injuries and is now healthy (Moala).  Sometimes, things are what they are.  They needed the roster spot and took his.  Maybe when Gonzo comes back and they can cut Baskett we see Ed back.  Although if weight was sighted as the reason I doubt his time away will help him much.

2.  I don’t see that why it would make the club look bad to admit they cut him due to behavior.  I think that it would have made the team look consistent and firm.  “We gave him a chance.  He blew it.”  Giving someone a second chance that doesn’t work out doesn’t make you look bad for giving the chance. It makes the offender look bad for blowing it.  I see no reason for the Colts to cover up anything to save face.

3.  I don’t think they would have covered up something to help Johnson.  A failed test, a run in with the law, whatever…those things would come out eventually if he signed somewhere else.  I don’t know what would be gained for Ed by lying now.

4.  I think the whole “starter to cut” argument isn’t important.  The Colts have played a rotation at DT all year.  The fact that Ed Johnson started didn’t necessarily mean he was best player at the position or even that he was getting most of the snaps.  He was just the guy that fit into that particular rotational scheme.  People are making too big a deal out of that rather meaningless designation.  Remember that Robert Mathis only started 2 games last year.

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