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Military stint lures player from Cardinals

By DARRELL FRY, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published June 2, 2002

Just when you think you've seen it all and heard it all, here comes Pat Tillman.

The Cardinals safety is leaving the NFL to join the military, spurning a multiyear contract that would have paid him about $1-million a season. He is expected to earn a little more than $1,000 a month in the Army, where he wants to become part of the elite group of Army Rangers.

Tillman, 25, always has been a bit of an eccentric, a surfer type who graduated summa cum laude from Arizona State and rode a bike every day to Cardinals practices.

"Pat is a very passionate person. ... This is something he feels he needs to do," close friend Jeff Hechtle told the Los Angeles Times. "If somebody says, "Those are the neatest shoes I've ever seen,' he'll buy the exact opposite ones, in purple, just to prove he wouldn't cave in to fashion trends. He's an original."

If you think Tillman is doing this as a publicity stunt, think again. Tillman has refused all interviews.

Said Cardinals general manager Bob Ferguson: "I'm very proud of him. His commitments and life go beyond the selfishness and greed you see in pro sports these days."

* * *

SPRUNG ON TRUNG: Rams coach Mike Martz tried last week to quash rumors that running back Trung Canidate was on the trading block. But don't look for the rumors to stop just because Martz said Canidate isn't being shopped.

Canidate showed last season he has talent, playing well in relief of Marshall Faulk. Other teams no doubt took notice, making the former University of Arizona standout a valued commodity.

But Martz's insistence that Canidate isn't being traded probably has something to do with the team's lack of depth in the backfield. Other than Faulk and Canidate, the Rams have no established running backs. Veteran Robert Holcombe was lost to free agency, leaving only third-round draft pick Lamar Gordon.

DID YOU KNOW?: Philadelphia police recovered an Eagles playbook stolen from linebacker Shawn Barber last week. Barber, who signed with the Eagles this spring, had been getting plenty of ribbing from his new teammates about losing the playbook.

"These guys are all Eagles fans, I guess, and they put in a lot of time to get the stuff back for me," Barber said of police. "Man, I owe them, big-time."

LET'S GET IT ON: It's only June, but the Browns are talking playoffs. After an impressive start last season fizzled down the stretch, they think they are poised to make another run this season with quarterback Tim Couch a year older and first-round draft pick William Green on board to boost their league-worst running game.

"I told myself that I wanted to work hard enough to still be around in three or four years and be the guy leading a charge at the playoffs and I feel like we are in position to make a run at it," Couch said. "This year, we're ready to go after it and take that next step."

THE COUNTDOWN HAS BEGUN: Just in case anyone is wondering, there are 62 more days until the first NFL preseason game (Washington-San Francisco).

-- Information from other news organizations was used in this report.

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