BEREA — Montario Hardesty and Owen Marecic were once envisioned as the Browns’ backfield of the future.
That future will never arrive.
Running back Hardesty was placed on season-ending injured reserve, while fullback Marecic was waived Tuesday as Cleveland reduced its roster to the NFL’s initial cutdown limit of 75 players.
The Browns also waived linebacker Kendrick Adams, tackle Dominic Alford, wide receiver Dominique Croom, nose tackle Nicolas Jean-Baptiste, tackle Ryan Miller and tight end Travis Tannahill. Tackle Chris Faulk was placed on the reserve/non-football injury list.
“It’s difficult because I recognize that a lot of these guys, this is their dream to play,” Cleveland coach Rob Chudzinski said. “I appreciate all of the efforts that they made.
“With bringing in a whole new coaching staff and bringing in a whole new approach to things, these guys were all part of the process of putting in the work. I take it very seriously when I sit down with them and talk through things.”
Hardesty, who was the Browns’ second-round selection in the 2010 NFL Draft, underwent arthroscopic left knee surgery on Aug. 15. The 6-foot, 215-pounder sat out the majority of training camp with a hamstring injury and a dislocated right thumb.
Earlier in his career, Hardesty underwent reconstructive surgery on both of his knees that sapped much of the explosiveness he displayed at the University of Tennessee. He only appeared in 23 games for Cleveland, rushing for 537 yards while making 16 receptions.
With Hardesty and Dion Lewis (broken left fibula) now both out for the season, the remaining running backs on the roster are starter Trent Richardson, Brandon Jackson, Chris Ogbonnaya, and rookie Miguel Maysonet.
“If you look at two weeks ago with what you thought the roster was going to be, things changed real quickly,” Chudzinski said. “There are always things that happen. Injuries and those things play a part. You can’t really set your team until all of the dust settles.”
Marecic was the Browns’ fourth-round selection out of Stanford in 2011, but never lived up to his reputation as a quality blocker. The 6-foot, 240-pounder suffered two concussions in a 19-day span as a rookie, and displayed an unfortunate knack for making the wrong play at the wrong time.
Marecic recorded five receptions and made six starts in 24 games with Cleveland, but dropped many more passes thrown his way. With new offensive coordinator Norv Turner’s system emphasizing all-purpose threats in the backfield, it was only a matter of time before he was released.
“The crazy thing about this business is that you just never know what’s going to happen,” Chudzinski said. “For some of them, it will be the last time they play. For some of them, they will play somewhere else. For some of them, we may pick them up later on down the road. You just never know.”
The Browns also were awarded two players off waivers, adding punter Colton Schmidt from San Francisco and outside linebacker Paul Hazel from Jacksonville.
Schmidt averaged a team-high 50.3 yards in three preseason games, but had little chance beat out All-Pro punter Andy Lee with the 49ers. The undrafted rookie from California-Davis will battle Spencer Lanning for one spot with Cleveland.
Lanning is considered a first-year player by the NFL because he has not played in a regular season game, but has been on the rosters of the Bears, Jaguars, Jets, and Browns. He is averaging 46.2 yards this preseason.
Hazel, who stands 6-5 and 227 pounds, played college football and basketball at Western Michigan. Also an undrafted rookie, he made four tackles for the Jaguars.
Cleveland plays its final preseason game Thursday at Chicago, then must cut down to 53 active players by Saturday at 6 p.m. The Browns’ roster, however, will likely not be finalized for the regular season until early next week.
“As I’ve mentioned before, there are guys who are getting released from other teams that potentially could play into the mix,” Chudzinski said.
“It’s also not as easy as saying it’s between ‘this guy’ and ‘this guy’ a lot of times. There are other positions, so you could be balancing players at different positions. Sometimes, they’re not even on the same side of the ball. This is a difficult process, but it’s one every team has to go through.”
Contact Brian Dulik at firstname.lastname@example.org