- The Washington Times - Friday, June 2, 2000

Washington Redskins running back/returner Brian Mitchell's release wasn't surprising, but it still stunned his teammates. The 10-year veteran was a salary cap victim Thursday along with fullback Larry Bowie, but few expect the mercurial returner to remain unemployed long. The cuts officially will be made Friday.
"He's going to make a great addition for someone," quarterback Brad Johnson said. "I hate to see [Mitchell released] because it eventually happens to all of us. It's just part of the business."
Meanwhile, cornerback Deion Sanders is expected to be released Friday by the Dallas Cowboys, and the Redskins are awaiting the 4 p.m. waiver deadline before calling agent Eugene Parker. Washington is considered the front-runner over Tampa Bay and Denver with an expected offer that includes a $6 million-plus bonus.
The Redskins considered retaining Mitchell until they had signed Sanders. However, coach Norv Turner said Mitchell requested his release on the first day of veteran free agency if the team planned to cut him later.
"Brian was under the feeling this was going to happen at some point and asked if it could happen now," Turner said. "Our thought would be to hold off and see what happens in the next couple weeks. Brian's going to get picked up and continue to contribute in this league."
Reached at home, Mitchell would say only, "I have no thoughts. I'm going to talk about some things later."
Mitchell's release saves the Redskins $1.3 million against the salary cap that is needed to sign Sanders. Although Mitchell said he would have accepted less money to finish his career in Washington, agent Steve Baker said the team never offered a reduced deal.
"It's bittersweet. Brian would have liked to remain a Redskin, but if not then it's better to be free on June 1 than June 20," Baker said. "I don't see Brian having any trouble getting placed. It's a strange time of year. You need to be aggressive to get something done, but you also have to be patient."
Mitchell, 31, joined Jim Brown as the only players to lead the league in combined yardage in four seasons (1994, 1995, 1996, 1998). The 1996 Pro Bowl returner holds 14 team records, and capped his career with a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against Tampa Bay in the Redskins' 14-13 NFC playoff loss.
Mitchell's departure leaves only cornerback Darrell Green and tight end James Jenkins from the Joe Gibbs coaching era, which ended in 1992.
Teammates understood Mitchell's departure was cap-related, though he was coming off his worst season.
"It's just like [the feeling] you would have if your friend or a member of your family left," Green said. "We're human beings. We grow together. We have friendships. [There's] our children, our wives. It's no different than [the departure of] Art Monk, Charles Mann, Joe Theismann, John Riggins."
Said guard Tre Johnson: " 'B-Mitch' has been the heart and soul of this team for a long time. I think he still has a lot more football in him. We're going to miss him. It takes three or four players to fill the role of one guy, and hopefully we can get it done with that. You can never replace anybody like that. You just hope to fill that void."
Turner said receiver James Thrash will return kickoffs and probably punts. However, cornerback Champ Bailey, rookie receiver Marcus Stiggers and possibly Sanders also will be considered for returning punts. Thrash averaged 25.4 yards on 14 kickoff returns with one touchdown last season.
"I have been preparing for this all my life," he said. "I have done it a lot in preseason and even last year I did it. I'm definitely ready."
Releasing Bowie saves the Redskins $1.65 million this season against the salary cap. Broken ankles the last two seasons permitted other players to fill his role.
"There's not much you can say about it. The salary cap had something to do with it," Bowie said. "I said coming in [as a rookie free agent in 1996] I didn't expect too much. I just got lucky. I believe the Redskins' offensive system was good for me. It worked well."
Turner felt it was better for Bowie to be released now instead of training camp because fullback Mike Sellers has become the primary blocking back.
"This is a positive for Larry in terms of getting a chance with a team," Turner said. "He may end up being a starter in this league."
Staff writer Jody Foldesy contributed to this report.

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