The Browns made hard decisions this past week in releasing veterans Joe Haden and John Greco, two players who became important fixtures both on and off the field in Cleveland.
Second-year head coach Hue Jackson didn't flinch when asked how the departure of two popular players might sting for a little while inside the team's locker room. But at the same time, he said, "I think they all know it is a business, and it's tough."
"I think they get that there's a start point of this and there's an end point of this and sometimes things happen for different reasons," Jackson said Monday. "I think those guys get it, and we deal with all of those things right up front."
It doesn't make their absence any easier. Left guard Joel Bitonio, who grew close to Greco in three seasons, described the veteran as a friend and mentor.
"Anytime you see a guy like that leave and he has been here for six years or so, it was tough for me," he said. "That was one of the tougher cuts, but you understand it is a business and we are working in a different direction right now, but I am sure he will land on his feet and I wish him the best. It is part of the game, but it is one of the ones you do not look forward to."
The same can be said for Haden, the two-time Pro Bowl cornerback whom the Browns released after seven seasons.
"He was definitely one of the first people I talked to when I got traded here," said cornerback Jamar Taylor, who had a breakout campaign with Cleveland after three seasons with the Dolphins. "He's a first-class type of guy. I definitely didn't see it coming, but it is part of the business."
The releases of Haden and Greco were part of a "tough week" for the Browns as they trimmed their roster to 53 members this past weekend. On Thursday, executive vice president of football operations Sashi Brown described parting with Haden as the most difficult decision he's made since taking on his current role two Januarys ago.
"He's been here so long, he means so much to the organization and he's been such a great player for a long time," Brown said. "You have a personal relationship with these guys. That's a part of it, but these decisions are the ones that need to be made and, for us, there will be many more to come but this was for sure the most difficult I've had to make."
Jackson echoed a similar sentiment as the Browns prepare for Sunday's season opener against the Steelers.
"I think the players are appreciative of that," he said, referencing the idea of making tough decisions, "but I also think they yearn for their teammate and exactly what he's going through. I think we all know that and understand that."