Crowell likely finished as a member of the Bills (Photo Source)
Yesterday, the Buffalo Bills shocked their fan base when they announced that linebacker Angelo Crowell had been placed on Injured Reserve. Though he had practiced just a day earlier and had participated in the Bills' pre-season victory over Indianapolis, Crowell chose to have surgery when his lingering knee injury was deemed too difficult to play on.
Now, the fact that Crowell is seeking a second opinion on his injured knee is, by and large, irrelevant. Crowell's 2008 season is over, and as this is the final year of a contract extension he signed in 2005, he will become an unrestricted free agent - and his career with Buffalo is likely over.
Variety of Reasons Behind the Move
A source close to the team informs us that Buffalo's decision to end Crowell's season was not made lightly. The team was concerned about the amount of time it would take Crowell to rehab; the standard line of 2-4 weeks post-arthroscopic surgery may not have applied to Crowell, as his injury was lingering, and the team feared that it may be without Crowell for up to three months. Crowell's decision to seek a second opinion is likely to dispel the rumor that he's damaged goods now that his season is over. It's important to note that Buffalo's medical staff was behind this decision, and that their concern about what could happen during Crowell's rehab was the motivating factor behind the decision. Had they waited for Crowell's rehab to begin and then knew that his out time would be substantial, they'd have been taking a huge risk.
The team also feared that Crowell had ulterior motives in sitting out - namely, his contract. The team feels that Crowell made his decision with the idea that he'd miss part of the season, get completely healthy, and have a productive go of it once he returned in order to maximize his contract value. That's not entirely unreasonable to believe given the circumstances. The team's decision to IR Crowell was not made, however, to prevent him from maximizing his contract value.
Not a Part of Long-Term Plans
In short, the Bills' current regime - led by head coach Dick Jauron - has never been overly enamored with Crowell since taking over the team in 2006. Crowell has been a productive player in his time, to be sure, and he was certainly good enough to be a starter here, but the coaches have never felt he gave it his all, both on and off the field. That's not to say they view him as a "me-first" player; he just doesn't display some of the traits that the team's leaders do, particularly in work ethic. He's also not viewed as the most intelligent of players, especially in coverage. It boils down to this: the Bills viewed Crowell as good enough to start in 2008, but he wasn't in the team's long-term plans.
The fact that Crowell's decision was spur-of-the-moment brought the situation to a head. Our source tells us that once Crowell's decision was made, the Bills were faced with an ultimatum: wait for Crowell and possibly play a double-digit number of football games with only 52 players, or put him on IR, let him get healthy, and wish him well. In the end, the decision wasn't exactly easy, but it was probably the right one - if Crowell is a lame duck and the team wasn't happy with him, what gain is there to waiting for him to return, especially if his motives are more contractual-based than team-based? The Bills' duty is to the team, not the player, and if Keith Ellison is more dedicated to the team than Crowell is - and isn't considered a huge drop-off - then you do what's best for the team. It's that simple.
Bills Leaders Upset with Crowell?
Don't forget, either, that some of the popular players mentioned as possible releases in lieu of losing Crowell - such as DE Copeland Bryan or OT Matt Murphy - earned their keep. They're team-first guys; Murphy in particular has proven to be the antithesis to Crowell, struggling to play through a shoulder injury for the good of the team. There's a difference between "hurt" and "injured", folks. Crowell is hurt; he can clearly play on the injury, as he did so literally a day before deciding to have surgery. Meanwhile, Murphy is gutting it out, and guys like Ryan Denney, Chris Kelsay and even Ellison played through actual injuries last season - our source says "they were virtual cripples" - all for the sake of the team. Our source reveals that several key players - leaders - aren't happy with Crowell's decision at all.
Ultimately, what's important to know about Crowell is this: he was, in essence, a lame duck player that wasn't necessarily a part of the team's long-term plans. We fans can have our opinions on the matter, but ultimately, the team is excited about what Keith Ellison can do as a starter on the strong side. Any notions that the team made this move to cut costs or punish Crowell for pulling a surprise on them are completely and utterly false - they did it because of the nature of Crowell's injury and the fact that they didn't want to wait for a guy who might not be putting the team first. It's not the prettiest of situations, but as they've done many other times, the Bills made the right decision in this matter. It was a hard decision, but it was right.