Carolina Panthers

Carolina Panthers cut RB DeAngelo Williams

The Carolina Panthers released DeAngelo Williams, the franchise’s all-time leading rusher Tuesday.
The Carolina Panthers released DeAngelo Williams, the franchise’s all-time leading rusher Tuesday. dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com

There was nothing surprising about the news Tuesday, but the finality of it still carried some weight: DeAngelo Williams is no longer a Carolina Panther.

The team officially released their franchise rushing leader, cutting ties with an iconic player for the second year in a row.

Like all-time receiving leader Steve Smith, who was unceremoniously cut last March, Williams apparently will finish his career elsewhere.

Williams told WBTV last month that the Panthers were cutting him, and expressed frustration at the organization’s seemingly unsympathetic response to his mother’s death last May. He claimed owner Jerry Richardson never reached out to him after he lost his mom, Sandra Hill, who was the impetus for the NFL’s breast cancer awareness initiative during October games.

Williams, who turns 32 in April, has indicated he wants to continue playing. He told the Observer on Tuesday that he’s been out of the country, but did not comment further.

The Panthers saved $2 million against the salary cap by designating Williams as a post-June 1 cut. They had to keep him on the roster until the start of the league year at 4 p.m. Tuesday to use the designation.

Williams, the Panthers’ first-round pick in 2006, leaves as Carolina’s leader in rushing yards (6,846), carries (1,432), rushing touchdowns (46) and 100-yard rushing games (100). His 210-yard rushing performance at New Orleans in 2012 also is a team record.

“DeAngelo will forever be remembered as one of the quintessential Panthers of this era,” coach Ron Rivera said in a release. “He holds all of our running back records and his 20 total touchdowns in the 2008 season was a truly special feat. I really enjoyed watching DeAngelo grow over the past four years and wish him nothing but the best.”

Williams’ last season with the Panthers was his worst.

Various leg injuries and a broken bone in his hand limited Williams to six regular-season games. He finished with 62 carries for 219 yards and no touchdowns – career lows for a back who went to his only Pro Bowl in 2009.

Williams had back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons in 2008 and 2009. He teamed with Jonathan Stewart in 2009 to become the NFL’s only backfield tandem to rush for 1,100 yards apiece.

General manager Dave Gettleman echoed his previous comments about Williams.

“We are very appreciative of the hard work and effort that DeAngelo brought to Bank of America Stadium every day,” Gettleman said. “Last year was extremely difficult for him, but he finished the season like a pro and I will always respect him for that.”

The Panthers’ release did not include any comments from Williams, who seldom spoke to the media last season. Team officials suggested Williams’ silence during training camp was related to the team’s response to his mother’s death.

“To know that a place of business that you’ve worked for and that you’ve bled, you’ve played through injuries, you did everything you possibly can for this organization to be successful, and then upon your darkest hour they let you handle it by yourself,” Williams told WBTV.

“I was so upset with Carolina because for the last five or six years during October she was celebrated. But then when she’s no longer here, let’s move on.”

Staff writer Jonathan Jones contributed.

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