It took the Miami Dolphins about 24 hours to terminate wide receiver Chad Johnson's contract after he was arrested Saturday night for domestic battery involving his wife Evelyn Lozada.
The Dolphins' decision to release Johnson Sunday left coach Joe Philbin with a dearth of experience at receiver and a potential backlash in the locker room. Philbin decided Johnson's knack for outlandish antics were a detriment that outweighed potential contributions from the six-time Pro Bowl receiver.
"It wasn't about one specific thing. It just wasn't going to work," Philbin said. "It didn't feel like to me that this fit was going to be right for us as an organization, or for Chad. It was time to move on. It wasn't done to send a message. It was done because it just didn't feel right."
It wasn't about one specific thing. It just wasn't going to work.
- Joe Philbin, Miami Dolphins Coach on Chad Johnson
Several players came to Johnson's defense, saying he was a good teammate and friend during his two months with the Dolphins (No. 27 in the AP Pro32). Linebacker Karlos Dansby said he was upset about the team's handling of the matter because he felt Johnson deserved another chance.
Safety Reshad Jones agreed the decision to let Johnson go seemed hasty.
"It was shocking to see he was going to be released a day after the incident," Jones said. "It is pretty disappointing. But that was up to the coaching staff."
Philbin, a first-year head coach, said he wasn't worried about losing the locker room. But he did take issue with Dansby sounding off publicly.
"I'm of the opinion that you should keep things in house in that regard," Philbin said.
The 34-year-old Johnson had been trying to revive his career after a disappointing season with the New England Patriots in 2011. He pledged to focus on football, then annoyed Philbin by frequently using profanity during an entertaining but R-rated session with reporters.
In the Dolphins' exhibition opener Friday against Tampa Bay, he dropped the only pass thrown his way.
On Monday, the team's other wideouts had trouble hanging onto the ball. Again and again, an accurate throw wound up on the ground, suggesting the modest reputation of the pass-catching corps is well-deserved.
What does Philbin think of the group?
"I wish we caught the ball a little better this morning," he said.
The position was considered perhaps the team's weakest even with Johnson. The remaining wideouts have combined for 490 career catches and 21 touchdowns, compared with Johnson's 766 and 67.
"Some of them aren't as well known, and maybe don't have a history of production," Philbin said. "But at some point you've got to have faith in people. I'm confident that we're going to get good receiving play here."
The situation looks especially grim because Brian Hartline, a starter the past two years, has missed all of training camp with a calf injury. Davone Bess is an experienced possession receiver, but newcomer Legedu Naanee has been plagued in recent years by recurring foot injuries, and the rest of the cast is unproven.
Roberto Wallace, who didn't catch a pass last season, led the Dolphins in receiving yards in their exhibition opener.
"The young guys get a little more opportunity," Bess said. "They've got to step up."
Not that the wideouts are Miami's lone area of concern. The quarterback position remains undecided, with holdover Matt Moore and first-round draft pick Ryan Tannehill battling for the job now that veteran David Garrard is sidelined by a knee injury. And the first-team defense played poorly against Tampa Bay.
Given the overall outlook, Johnson might be missed mostly for his comic relief.
"The mood of the team? We've got to get better regardless," Dansby said. "If we lose one guy, we've just got to keep pressing forward. We've got a lot of things to do, a lot of goals and a lot of improving to do. We went out there and laid an egg as a team. We've got to get better."
Written and reported by the Associated Press.