Cutting an NFL player is rarely an easy decision. But this one was harder than most, when the Cleveland Browns waived defensive end Chris Smith this week.
“It is always difficult to cut someone and, in this instance, it was even more difficult, yes,” Browns head coach Freddie Kitchens told reporters Wednesday.
In September, Smith’s girlfriend Petara Cordero died in a car accident just weeks after giving birth to their daughter, Haven Harris Smith.
“I still remember the morning that it all happened,” Kitchens said. “I was at his house, and we talked and some of those conversations that you have with a person builds your identity as a relationship.
“It is very difficult any time you release a player that is the type of person that Chris is. He is certainly a good person. Our football relationship ended, but that does not mean our personal relationship from my standpoint, his teammates and this organization. We will always be there to support Chris.”
Smith, in his sixth NFL season, originally signed with the Browns as an unrestricted free agent in 2018, playing in 25 games with two starts. He played in nine games for Cleveland this season.
“It is tough just because of Chris and who he is,” quarterback Baker Mayfield said. “We love Chris. We were all there for him not just because of what happened but because of who he was as a person, so it is tough to see him go. But it was a decision they had to make.”
At the time, despite the tragedy, Smith, 27, played less than a week later for the Browns, a win against the New York Jets on Monday Night Football.
Smith said after the game, “When it first happened, I was ready to give up. But I had to just think about my daughter and stuff, and she would want me to play.
“I got to play for her. She’s my why. My daughter’s my why. My other two kids are, too. But for my youngest, I’ve got to be Mom and Dad. God has stuff happen for a reason. Sometimes we don’t understand God’s plan, but she’s in a better place now. The rest of my life, I’m going to fight for her.”
The Browns host the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.