Pittsburgh Maulers USFL coach explains cutting player over pizza/chicken salad incident

Pittsburgh Maulers head coach Kirby Wilson couldn’t avoid the inevitable questions regarding the release of running back De’Veon Smith after the team’s 17-3 loss in its USFL opener Monday night. The USFL released a “United By Football” documentary in the weeks leading up to Week 1 of the league’s reboot, showcasing teams’ training camp practices and locker room buildup.

In the documentary, a clip went viral regarding the Maulers cutting Smith. The reason Wilson released Smith in the video is an interesting one, to say the least, as revealed in the documentary.

As revealed in the clip, Smith wanted pizza over chicken salad. He asked a hotel worker in Birmingham, Alabama (where all USFL games are being played) if they had pizza instead of chicken salad. When Smith was asked if it would be a problem if that wasn’t possible, he claimed he only said “yes” before walking away.

Wilson offered a deeper explanation on the release after Monday’s loss.

“I have a set of standards that we go by as a football team,” Wilson said. “Those standards weren’t met. That individual knew that we had a prior agreement that led to a later misunderstanding. Once those incidents were brought to my attention, I addressed them immediately.

“These are life lessons. They have nothing to do with football. You’re trying to teach people how to respect other people, no matter how you see or view them. He had immediately reached back out, apologized, committed to trying to be a better man, a better person from the incident. But we have already moved on.

“It’s very unfortunate this went out as a one-sided story, but I’ve been in this business too long. … We have a very, very high standard of football. It wasn’t met. When we have a player that steps out of line, with what we believe in as a staff, it must be dealt with. I didn’t think twice about it.”

Wilson provided this explanation in the “United By Football” documentary on Smith’s release.

“Any disrespect of football or members of staff, USFL, etc. will not be tolerated,” Wilson said. “He crossed the line, so we had to deal with it. … Someone’s hurt feelings are a distant second to the greater good of the team. And we’ve moved on and turned that page, and I’m happy we did it.”

The Maulers also released a statement on the incident after the clip went viral.

Smith commented about the Maulers’ team statement, claiming he was never made aware he violated any team rules.

Smith was an undrafted free agent out of Michigan in 2017, spending time on the Miami Dolphins and Washington practice squads. The 27-year-old was also on the Orlando Apollos of the Alliance of American Football and the Tampa Bay Vipers of the XFL. He played with the Aviators in The Spring League in 2020.

The Maulers and Smith may be able to put this to rest, but the USFL may also want to explain the entire context of the story before it decides to get social media to pay attention to the league. Both Wilson and Smith were put in a bad light over the clip.

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