Pittsburgh Maulers, released running back in dispute over lunch menu incident

Monday, April 18, 2022 | 7:00 PM

Before their first game kicked off, the USFL’s Pittsburgh Maulers found themselves in the headlines – for a truly unusual reason.

In a two-minute clip from United By Football, a Fox documentary about the return of the spring football league, Maulers running back De’Veon Smith is shown being cut by head coach Kirby Wilson, presumably for saying he wouldn’t eat chicken salad and preferred a slice of pizza at a team lunch.

In the clip, Smith recounts a conversation with a cafeteria worker.

“Me saying, ‘Yes, I don’t eat chicken salad.’ I was like, ‘Is there another option?’” Smith said. “He walked in with pizza and I was like, ‘Can I get a slice of pizza?’ He said, ‘No.’ He said, ‘Is that going to be a problem?’ I said, ‘Yes.’ That’s all I said. I didn’t say no cuss words. No nothing. That’s all I said. I promise you. No disrespect. On my dad’s life, I promise you I didn’t say nothing disrespectful except, ‘yes.’”

Wilson, evidently, did not accept Smith’s account of the incident.

“I appreciate you sharing that, but the matter, it’s done,” Wilson said before quickly walking out of the room.

On Monday evening, about an hour before the kickoff of their season opener against Tampa Bay, the Maulers released a statement via the team’s Twitter account.

“The show captures hundreds of hours of film with the intent of providing transparency to fans, but unfortunately, much of the context was left out in the this moment,” the statement read. “Smith had violated three team rules in a 24-hour span, and in this particular incient, disrespected a cafeteria worker, which wasn’t captured on camera.

“Smith has subsequently reached out directly to Coach Wilson to apologize, and asked to be reinstated to the Maulers’ roster.”

It took Smith less than 10 minutes to respond to the statement via Twitter.

“What rules did I break?” he wrote. “Now (you’re) lying on my name????? Say less.”

Smith, 27, is an Ohio native who rushed for 2,235 yards in four seasons as Michigan from 2013-16. He signed with the Miami Dolphins as an undrafted free agent in 2017 and spent some time on the team’s active roster as well as practice squad. He was also in NFL camp with Washington in 2018.

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