Top return man Allen Rossum was released by the San Francisco 49ers on Monday, creating roster room for newly signed rookie receiver Michael Crabtree.
Rossum was surprised by the move when summoned to a meeting with coach Mike Singletary. He also spoke with general manager Scot McCloughan.
The 33-year-old player ranks second in league history with 14,987 return yards. He hadn't been active the past two games after playing in the first three to start his second season with the 49ers.
"Unfortunately, as this business goes, sometimes decisions are made that you don't understand, but you have to live with it and they have to live with it as well," Rossum said in the parking lot before leaving. "I don't think I've disappointed anybody when I've stepped on the field."
He had packed a few belongings and left club headquarters before the 49ers got to work during their bye week. He plans to return to his family in Atlanta, where he will decide whether to try to join another team or retire after parts of 12 NFL seasons.
"If my time has come my time has come," he said. "My utmost passion is my family."
Rossum will be replaced by Crabtree, the team's top draft pick in April who finally signed a six-year deal last week. Crabtree will spend the bye week at team facilities while others get a break _ "He already had his bye week, a long bye week," Singletary said.
Singletary called Allen "a joy to be around, an asset to the team."
"Sometimes the numbers don't quite work," he added. "I'm really thankful we had him and I'm thankful I got to know him. He'll do well."
Rossum was coming off one of his best seasons in 2008, having set career highs of 26.8 yards per kickoff return and 14.9 per punt return. The kickoff average ranked third in the NFC while the punt mark was second best in the NFL.
"I think teams have to approach our return game differently when I'm on the field," Rossum said. "These last two weeks before every game they've been shocked that I'm not up. I know I'm doing something good when those teams approach me and say, 'Hey, man, we've been preparing for you all week.' I'm not worried about it."
Rossum said he believes the 49ers (3-2) are on the upswing following six straight losing seasons. And despite his ouster, he respects the organization.
"As an NFL player you have to feel you're best whether you play or not," he said. "So I said, 'I know it's a tough decision for you because there's no way you can sit up there and say I shouldn't be on the field.' I respect them for releasing me now so I can get in somewhere else or I can just go home and spend time with my kids."