Hambrick seeks next foothold on arena turf

By David Murphy,Times Staff Writer
Published May 24, 2007

TAMPA - The meandering career of Darren Hambrick reached its latest stop Wednesday when the Pasco High alum and former Dallas Cowboy walked onto the artificial turf at the St. Pete Times Forum wearing a practice jersey and shorts.

"I'm just looking for opportunities to get back to the National Football league, " the linebacker said. "I've got to start somewhere."

Hambrick, whose NFL career was cut short due to off-the-field issues, is on a two-day tryout with the Storm, but coach Tim Marcum said afterward that he could be signed to the practice squad and promoted to the active roster in time for Saturday's game at Georgia.

If that does occur, it would mark his first pro football game since 2002, when he played in 16 games for the Cleveland Browns. Hambrick appeared to be a rising star when he led the Cowboys with 154 tackles in 2000, but Dallas released the linebacker five games into the 2001 season. Since then, he has attempted to rebuild a personal image that has been marred by contract disputes, arrests, and questions about his character.

In 1999, he received probation for running from a sheriff's deputy after a traffic stop. In 2002, he pleaded no contest after authorities said he tried to cash a paycheck from the Carolina Panthers twice.

Hambrick, 31, acknowledges he has made mistakes, but says he has made a determined effort to turn his life around, attending church regularly and meeting with spiritual advisers.

"Personally, I cleared up some stuff that I needed to clear up with myself, " Hambrick said. "Spiritually, I'm letting God just have his way and just open up opportunities for me."

Marcum said Hambrick is one option to replace Jarrod Penright, who suffered a quad injury last week. But as of Wednesday afternoon, the Storm had not signed him to a contract. Hambrick's agent, Terry Braun, said he expects an offer from the CFL's Montreal Alouettes as well.

"We thought the Tampa Bay Storm was good for a number of reasons, " said Braun, who represents a number of Arena League players. "No. 1, it's local. No. 2, it shows people he's dedicated to getting back to professional football."

Hambrick worked out for the Miami Dolphins last May but was not offered a contract.

"If I can help the Storm, they're pretty much going to use me, " Hambrick said, "but my main objective is to try to get back to the National Football League."

BRIGGS BACK: Defensive end Tom Briggs practiced with a new cast on his broken left hand after missing most of last week's win over Arizona because of pain in the hand. He expects to play Saturday.

FUNERAL UPDATE: Marcum said he hopes to attend the funeral of Caroline Wiren, the wife of linebacker Nyle Wiren who died last week after giving birth to the couple's first child. He said he thinks he has found a private plane that can fly to Oxford, Miss., for an 11:30 a.m. funeral Saturday and get back to Atlanta for the 7 p.m. game against Georgia.

David Murphy can be reached at dmurphy@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1407.