Willis McGahee's decision to skip offseason workouts isn't what cost the veteran running back his job with the Denver Broncos.
His absence, however, did allow the organization to see ample promise in rookie Montee Ball and abundant progress from second-year speedster Ronnie Hillman.
That gave them the faith to put the football and their fortunes in the hands of the two young running backs Thursday by releasing McGahee, the 31-year-old bruiser who led them in rushing last season despite missing the final two months with a right knee injury.
The move wasn't unexpected, but the timing of it was a bit of a surprise.
The Broncos could have kept McGahee through training camp as an insurance policy against injury even if he wasn't going to vie for the starting job. Instead, they sent him on his way just before wrapping up their three-day mandatory minicamp where McGahee had gotten just a handful of handoffs.
"In fairness to him, I think [for] the things he's done for us, this gives him a better opportunity to hook on somewhere," coach John Fox said. "It gives us a better opportunity to give some of these young guys more reps. It's just a conscious decision for us to get younger."
McGahee tore the medial collateral ligament and suffered a compression fracture to his right knee in a game against San Diego last November and missed the rest of the year. Still, he led the team with 731 yards rushing.
NFL to tighten stadium security
Bring yourself to the game. Leave the cooler and backpack at home.
The NFL is tightening stadium security starting this preseason, limiting the size and type of bags fans can bring to the game.
The restrictions are designed to enhance security while speeding up entry into stadiums.
With the exception of medically necessary items, only clear plastic, vinyl or PVC bags no larger than 12 inches by 6 inches by 12 inches will be allowed.
Binoculars, cameras, and smartphones also will be permitted. Banned items will include purses larger than a clutch bag; coolers; briefcases; backpacks; fanny packs; cinch bags; seat cushions; luggage; computer bags; and camera bags or any bag larger than the permissible size.