August 12, 2002 at 10:29 PM EST - Updated July 26 at 11:45 PM
By TOM WITHERS, AP Sports Writer
BEREA, Ohio (AP) - As he sat home waiting for an NFL team to call, Darren Hambrick ran, lifted weights and did everything possible to stay in shape.
The only thing the linebacker couldn't do was buckle his chin strap and knock somebody's head off.
"I tried to get some friends to put on the pads with me, but they wouldn't get in there," said Hambrick, who signed with the Cleveland Browns on Sunday. "I had too much stuff built up in me."
Hambrick, who has played for Dallas and Carolina, released some of it on Monday as the Browns began figuring out how to replace Pro Bowl linebacker Jamir Miller.
It's a work in progress.
Miller, who tied for the AFC lead with 13 sacks last season, is out for the year after tearing his right Achilles' tendon in Saturday's exhibition win over the Minnesota Vikings.
He underwent surgery Monday and is expected to between five and six months to recover.
Hambrick wasn't the only Browns player letting off steam in Monday's workout, which was moved indoors because of severe weather.
Browns coach Butch Davis abruptly ended practice more than 30 minutes early after rookie linebacker Kevin Bentley got into fights with tackles Joaquin Gonzalez and Roger Chanoine.
Bentley, one of the players Davis is looking at as a possible replacement for Miller, stayed on the ground for several moments after his scuffle with Chanoine.
"Fix my helmet," Bentley yelled after being helped up. "Let's go to war."
Davis wasn't nearly as fired up about the extracurricular activities.
"There's no place for it," Davis barked. "It's a dumb thing to happen."
Miller's injury in Saturday's exhibition win over Minnesota has forced the Browns to reshuffle their first-unit defense.
For now, Anthony Denman has moved into Miller's spot at strong-side, or "Sam" linebacker, but Davis plans to spend most of this week experimenting with different combinations.
"We've shuffled a couple of guys around," Davis said. "We'll take a look at a lot of guys. We want to make the right move. We don't want to abandon everything we've been coaching and teaching."
Denman was listed on the depth chart as Dwayne Rudd's backup on the weak side last week, but Davis thinks the second-year player from Notre Dame can handle the switch.
"He's smart. He's big," Davis said of the 235-pound Denman. "We're going to give him a crack at it and see what he can do. We're going to give guys opportunities."
Hambrick is grateful to be getting another one.
The four-year veteran is still wondering where things went wrong in Dallas. In 2000, the 26-year-old started all 16 games and led the Cowboys with 154 tackles.
"I had a Pro Bowl caliber season," he said. "I was hoping to become a Pro Bowl player. I had a good start and then that came up."
"That" was his release by the Cowboys, who apparently had enough of Hambrick's antics in his three-plus seasons with them.
Drafted by Dallas in the fifth round in 1998, Hambrick was arrested the following year in Florida after fleeing police following a traffic stop.
Hambrick then skipped two minicamps after the Cowboys offered him only a fourth-year minimum contract of $512,000 during the 2000 offseason. He reluctantly signed a one-year deal after he got no offers from other teams.
Then, the Cowboys cut him. He was picked up by the Panthers and started eight games last season but was out of pro football until the Browns called his agent at halftime Saturday night.
"I still don't get it," Hambrick said of his release in Dallas. "I'm a bad guy? I'm a menace to the team?"
Hambrick remains convinced that Dallas owner Jerry Jones had something to do with him being unemployed.
"Whatever Jerry Jones said he must have said to all the owners because they didn't want to touch me," Hambrick said.
Davis wasn't afraid to, and said the Browns had previous interest in signing Hambrick.
"All I'm concerned about right now is what kind of football player he is," Davis said. "This is something that's been on the burner for a while."
(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)