Bashaud Breeland tried to publicly embrace the venom that can be directed at NFL cornerbacks, but on Saturday it was the Vikings who decided they had seen enough.
Breeland was released by the Vikings, two days before Monday night's game at Chicago, after he was held out of a practice for "not-injury related" reasons.
Sources with knowledge of Saturday's practice said Breeland was involved in a verbal altercation with coaches and teammates, which escalated to the point that General Manager Rick Spielman, who was standing nearby, had to step in and break things up. Players had come to expect boisterous talk from Breeland in practice, sources said, but Saturday's incident, in which the cornerback took off his cleats and had heated exchanges with players trying to diffuse the situation, pushed things past a point of no return.
Breeland, 29, was seen warming up with teammates at the start of practice, the portion open to reporters, before the incident.
In his eighth NFL season, he had five deflections, two interceptions and two forced fumbles in 13 starts after signing a one-year deal with the Vikings in June.
Breeland's tenure was erratic from the beginning. He was held out at the start of training camp while returning from offseason shoulder surgery. The veteran was pegged with allowing a team-worst six passing touchdowns in coverage and a team-high 15 missed tackles, according to Pro Football Focus, which led to social media spats with fans.
After the Week 5 victory against the Lions, Breeland wrote on Twitter that fans needed to "enjoy the win" and "shut up." Coach Mike Zimmer afterward made the unfounded claim that was directed at a reporter.
"Wow," Breeland posted Saturday on his Twitter account after being released.
"I wanna appreciate the Vikings for the opportunity," he added in another tweet.
Breeland's availability waned over the course of the season. He missed at least 30% of the snaps in three of his last six Vikings games. That included a strange absence in his final start against the Steelers. Breeland intercepted Ben Roethlisberger, but was then seen vomiting in a trash can on the sideline while he was replaced by Kris Boyd and Cameron Dantzler.
Afterward, Zimmer didn't explain why Breeland was ill, only saying he wasn't sick going into the game nor did he get struck in the stomach. Breeland returned in the fourth quarter against Pittsburgh and struggled, getting flagged for interference on a 38-yard catch by Chase Claypool.
"I couldn't tell you exactly what the deal was with Breeland," fellow cornerback Patrick Peterson said the following week. "But that's tough for a defense when you have a three-corner rotation."
The Vikings now have Peterson, Mackensie Alexander, Dantzler, Boyd and Harrison Hand at cornerback on the 53-man roster. Cornerbacks Tye Smith and Parry Nickerson are on the practice squad.