Lewis' NFL future uncertain

Updated: February 17, 2010, 7:23 PM ET
By James Walker | ESPN.com

The Cleveland Browns announced their release of veteran running back Jamal Lewis Wednesday as the team continues its makeover under new president Mike Holmgren.

Lewis' future in the NFL is uncertain. He initially said that 2009 would be his final season. But after spending time on injured reserve with post-concussion syndrome, Lewis later hinted that he may be open to returning.

"I plan to evaluate my future and have not made a final determination on whether I will be playing football next season," Lewis said in a statement.

First, he must be cleared to return.

"If Jamal wants to play and he's cleared to play, I think he's got a lot of football he can bring to the table to help an organization," Lewis' agent, Mitch Frankel said. "He can be a significant contributor to the right organization. Jerome Bettis and some other guys at the end of their careers took on a different role, and I think Jamal can do that."

Either way, it won't be for the Browns. The release makes Lewis an unrestricted free agent and free to sign with any team if he doesn't retire.

"I would like to thank Mr. Lerner and the Browns family for giving me the opportunity to play three years with an organization that has such a rich tradition. My teammates, the fans, and the community were great," Lewis said.

Lewis, 30, said after the Browns' season finale that he was still suffering from headaches and blurred vision as a result of the concussion, which he sustained in the opener against Minnesota. Frankel said he wasn't sure if Lewis was still having the problems and Lewis did not address them in a prepared statement.

Lewis tried playing through the symptoms for three months before finally getting examined. He carried 143 times last year for 500 yards and has rushed for 10,067 yards in his career.

Lewis was one of the most outspoken veterans against first-year coach Eric Mangini. He was critical of Mangini's practice habits and felt the coach was working the players too hard. Halfway through last season, Lewis said he would retire.

Now he wants to join a contender if his body will let him.

"Jamal went to the Browns with the hope he'd be successful and go to the playoffs and beyond," Frankel said. "At this stage in his career, I think he would want to play for a team that has a chance to compete and get back to the Super Bowl like he did in 2000. That's not to say Cleveland can't do that, but it would appear there are other teams out there that, as of today, look a lot stronger."

Lewis' release leaves Jerome Harrison as Cleveland's apparent starter. Harrison rushed for 862 yards last season, but ended with a flurry. He rushed for 561 yards and five touchdowns over the final three games -- all wins -- as Cleveland closed the season by winning its final four.

"I enjoyed getting to know Jamal and having the opportunity to coach him last season," Mangini said in a statement. "We want to thank him for his contributions to the Cleveland Browns and wish him nothing but the best moving forward. I'm sure he will be successful in whatever he decides to pursue."

Lewis rushed for 10,607 yards and 58 touchdowns in his career with the Browns and Baltimore Ravens. He made the Pro Bowl in 2003 when he rushed for 2,066 yards with Baltimore.

James Walker covers the AFC North for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

James Walker | email

ESPN Miami Dolphins reporter

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