Carolina Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams said the team plans to release him after nine seasons.
Williams told Charlotte television station WBTV Monday that he was informed of the decision in a meeting last week with general manager Dave Gettleman and coach Ron Rivera.
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Panthers spokesman Steve Drummond confirmed the meeting, but said the team hasn’t released Williams and there would be no action taken on Monday.
Gettleman did not immediately return phone calls.
Although Williams is the franchise’s all-time leading rusher with 6,846 yards, his production dropped off this past season. Williams, who turns 32 in April, missed 10 games due to injuries last season and was limited to 219 yards rushing. He averaged a mere 3.5 yards per carry and did not score a touchdown.
Jonathan Stewart remerged as the team’s top ball carrier last season, rushing for 809 yards and three touchdowns.
Williams said Gettleman told him he was being cut because the team doesn’t run the ball enough to justify keeping him and Jonathan Stewart on the roster.
”We sat down and he told me `The fact of the matter is we’re going to have to release you’,” Williams told WBTV. ”I said you know, `Why?’ and he said, `because we don’t run the ball enough. Just like you said back before the season started, we don’t run the ball enough to keep you both, so we’re going to release you.”’
It’s possible the team could designate Williams as a post-June 1 cut. That would save about $2 million under the team’s 2015 salary cap.
Williams said he spoke for about 10 minutes with Gettleman and Rivera.
”I don’t feel bitter at all,” Williams told WBTV. Stewart ”had the hot hand at the end of the season. He’s a great running back. … I don’t feel bitter at all. It’s a business. And that business comes back and reminds us year after year – whether it be Steve Smith, whether it be Jordan Gross, whether it be myself – it’s going to happen to every guy in that locker room, so it doesn’t bother me at all.”
The Panthers released Smith last year and Gross retired after the Panthers wanted him to take a pay cut.
Last season was a difficult for one for Williams.
His mother died from breast cancer in the offseason. He endured injuries to his hamstring, ankle and hand, limiting him to six games.
Williams was selected by the Panthers with the 27th overall pick in 2006. His 46 touchdowns rushing are a franchise record.
Gettleman told reporters last week at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis that it is hard for an older running back and that he finished the season ”like a pro’s pro.” He did not mention the decision to release Williams.
Williams’ best season came in 2008 when he ran for a career-best 1,515 yards and 18 touchdowns. He followed that up by rushing for 1,117 yards and seven TDs in 2009.
However, in the last five seasons Williams has averaged less than 600 yards rushing per season and had only 16 combined touchdowns rushing during that span.