The Bengals didn't cut Chris Crocker on Friday because of one game, but they do part ways with some bad memories by releasing the starting strong safety.
While several Bengals made mistakes in last season's 31-10 playoff loss at Houston, Crocker's errors are the ones that will be remembered as what stood in Cinicnnati's way of winning its first playoff game in 21 years.
He dropped a sure interception that could have been returned for a touchdown, which would have tied the score in the third quarter. Then he failed to push Arian Foster out of bounds on a 42-yard touchdown run, which was the game-clinching score in the fourth quarter.
“It’s sad that I don’t have a chance to redeem myself and get to start all over again here this season," Crocker told the Cincinnati Enquirer, "but the league is unfortunate and cruel that way sometimes.”
Crocker, 32, showed character by talking to reporters immediately after the playoff loss. He was a defensive captain for the Bengals and was named the team's Good Guy by the Cincinnati media.
On the field, Crocker had some lapses. He struggled in covering athletic tight ends, and he wasn't strong in run support. He finished seventh on the Bengals in tackles this season, and seventh in passes defensed (four). Crocker also didn't intercept a pass.
The Bengals told him that durability was the biggest reason for his release, according to Crocker. He missed the last half of 2010 after injuring his MCL, but he played in all but 47 of the team's 1,066 defensive snaps last season, according to the Enquirer.
“I know as a player I feel a certain way, but not everybody in the building felt the same way,” Crocker told the Enquirer. “This was one of the best stops of my career. I got to go to the playoffs two of my three full seasons here.”
The Bengals could promote Taylor Mays, a 2010 second-round pick, to Crocker's spot, or they could draft a safety. Cincinnati has three of the first 53 picks in the upcoming draft.