CLEVELAND, Ohio — Why did the Browns wait so long to cut ties with troubled young defensive tackle Perrion Winfrey?
They could have parted ways with him in April when he was arrested on a misdemeanor charge against a woman he was dating, but chose to stand by him and let the legal process play out.
Ultimately, the charges were dropped last month after Winfrey completed a pretrial diversion program, and the Browns were prepared to bring him to training camp — beginning Saturday at The Greenbrier resort in West Virginia — to see if he was finally ready to turn pro.
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They got their answer Wednesday morning when a video surfaced of Winfrey threatening to beat up a woman and her friend and, according to what the victim told police, showing them his gun.
According to Winfrey, the women harassed him in the lobby of the Metropolitan at The 9, and things escalated from there. She says he also lunged at her, hitting the left side of her neck, which had a red scrape in the photos, the police report said.
The Browns’ 2022 fourth-round pick from Oklahoma, Winfrey is under investigation by Cleveland Police and is an aggravated robbery suspect for stealing the women’s phones.
Winfrey was already on thin ice, and the Browns didn’t hesitate to cut him Wednesday morning after watching the Instagram video and hearing him say, among other disturbing things, “I’m going to smack — out of both of you.”
The question is why did they stick with him as long as they did?
Winfrey was benched for three games last season due to maturity issues, and was arrested in April. He had an order of protection against him and was forced to wear an electronic monitoring device until he completed the diversion program.
Last month he was robbed at gunpoint at 3:30 a.m. in downtown Cleveland when six masked gunmen apprehended him and a friend coming out of the FilteR bar and stole Greg Newsome’s II car, which was later recovered. The Browns didn’t hold that incident against Winfrey, except for the fact that he was out so late when he was already on a short leash.
He was held in to practice the first two days of minicamp for an unknown reason, and joined his teammates outdoors on the third and final day on June 8, which turned out to be his last in a Browns uniform.
Browns GM Andrew Berry doesn’t part with his draft picks easily, and Winfrey is just the third cut out of 24. The others were 2020 fifth-round safety Richard LeCounte and 2022 seventh-round center Dawson Deaton.
Under the current regime, the Browns have demonstrated that they are willing to take chances with players with checkered pasts and try to help them become good citizens as well as productive football players.
The most glaring example is Deshaun Watson, who was accused by more than two dozen massage therapists of sexual misconduct during deals while he played for the Texans. Believing Watson could be rehabilitated, the Browns didn’t hesitate to trade three first-round picks for him and pay him a then-record $230 million guaranteed.
So far, Watson has done everything the Browns and the NFL have asked of him, including serving an 11-game suspension, paying a $5 million fine and undergoing an extensive treatment program.
The Browns also took a chance two years ago on another troubled defensive tackle in Malik McDowell, who ended up going off the rails again and was arrested for public exposure and assault on a deputy. Before that incident, he was a productive member of the team and community and appeared to be a winner.
The Browns, under former GM John Dorsey, played on Cleveland native Kareem Hunt, who had been cut by the Chiefs after video surfaced of an altercation with a woman in downtown Cleveland, also on The 9.
During his four seasons here, Hunt – currently after a new team – turned himself around and atoned for his mistake. The Browns considered him a success story and an asset to his hometown.
The Browns were hoping for similar triumph with Winfrey, who had a clean record when they tapped him. When it became clear last season that he was struggling off the field, the Browns gave him the help and support he needed. By the end of the season, they felt he had made progress and could make the move this year. He also showed some ability on the field late in the season.
But players with behavioral issues often struggle in the offseason when they don’t have structure or their support system. McDowell went down in January, and Winfrey didn’t get into trouble until April, shortly before the start of the Browns’ offseason program.
The Browns must also be aware of the perception that they condone violence against women — which is undoubtedly why they quickly cut Winfrey on Wednesday. But they also believe that people can turn their lives around, and they figured the April arrest would be his turning point. They were wrong about that, but it won’t be the last time they try to help a young man develop as a person and well as a player.
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