Pittsburgh Maulers head coach Kirby Wilson couldn’t avoid the inevitable questions regarding the release of running back Devon Smith After the team lost 17-3 in the USFL opener Monday night. The USFL released a documentary “United By Football” in the weeks leading up to the first week of the league’s restart, showcasing the teams’ training camp practices and locker room buildup.
In the documentary, a video of Maulers cutting Smith went viral. The reason Wilson released Smith in the video is interesting, to say the least, as revealed in the documentary.
As it appeared in the clip, Smith wanted pizza instead of chicken salad. A hotel worker in Birmingham, Alabama (where all USFL games are played) asked 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 turning away.
Wilson provided a deeper explanation for the release after Monday’s loss.
“I have a set of standards that we follow as a football team,” Wilson said. “These criteria were not met. This person knew we had a prior agreement which led to a misunderstanding later. As soon as these incidents were brought to my attention, I addressed them immediately.
“These are life lessons. They have nothing to do with football. You try to teach people how to respect others, no matter how you see them or how you see them. He immediately reached out, apologized, and committed to trying to be a better man, a better person than the accident, but we moved on. Already.
“It is very unfortunate that this came out as a one-sided story, but I have been in this business for a very long time… We have a very high level in football. It has not been achieved. When we have a player that goes out of line, with what we believe in as employees. It has to be dealt with. I didn’t think twice about it.”
Wilson provided this explanation in the United in Football documentary about Smith’s firing.
“No disrespect for football, members of the USFL team, etc. will be tolerated,” Wilson said. “He crossed the line, so we had to deal with it. … Someone’s feelings hurt are second to the greater good of the team. And we went ahead and said this page, and I’m glad we did he-she.”
The Maulers also released a statement about the incident after the clip went viral.
Smith commented on Mueller’s team statement, claiming that he was never informed that he had violated any team rules.
Smith was a non-drafted free agent outside Michigan in 2017, spending time at Miami Dolphin and training teams in Washington. The 27-year-old was the Orlando Apollos of the Alliance of American Football and the Tampa Bay Vipers of the XFL. He played with the pilots in the Spring League in 2020.
The Maulers and Smith may be able to put that aside, but the USFL may also want to explain the full context of the story before deciding to draw social media attention to the league. Both Wilson and Smith were put in poor light over the clip.