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Leaf might fight for his salary

By RICK STROUD

© St. Petersburg Times,
published September 9, 2001


DALLAS -- The experiment with quarterback Ryan Leaf did not pay off. Now it might end up costing the Bucs.

The Bucs expect Leaf to file a grievance against them in an attempt to recover the $900,000 in base salary he lost after being released last week.

Leaf failed a physical with the Cowboys, who were willing to sign him to a $419,000 contract.

The Cowboys doctors determined Leaf's injured right wrist, which hampered him throughout the offseason and training camp with the Bucs, would prevent him from playing this season.

Leaf is almost certain to have surgery on the wrist, which will take at least eight weeks to recover.

By then, it's unlikely a team will touch him, particularly with the limitations of the salary cap.

As for Leaf's ability to recover money from the Bucs? His argument that the team released him injured might not fly.

Tampa Bay played him in the final preseason game for one series to demonstrate his readiness. If need be, the Bucs say they will trot out about 16 hours of tapes of workouts in which Leaf participated.

Tampa Bay also reportedly offered Leaf a chance to remain on the team if he took a $200,000 pay cut.

For Leaf, it's a shame the Bucs did not determine sooner that he had no future with the team.

Leaf bought the team's commitment to him, especially after paying him a $600,000 signing bonus to restructure his three-year contract to make it more cap friendly.

But he didn't do anything on the field, perhaps because of his injury, to make Tampa Bay believe he could compete with Shaun King as the Bucs' No. 2 quarterback next season.

According to one Bucs official, quoting that International spy, Austin Powers, Leaf "lost his mojo."

Bucs officials say he also lacked maturity and reacted the way a young Trent Dilfer used to, blaming teammates for gaffes rather than take responsibility for his play.

Make no mistake: Leaf was injured. He should have shut it down in the offseason. Bucs cornerback Ronde Barber says Leaf's wrist was so bad that one of the bones could be moved around at will.

If you're wondering if the Bucs would take another shot at Leaf next season, forget it. But King will be a restricted free agent, so it's likely they'll look for another veteran to compete with him.

BUCS FAN: Cowboys quarterback Quincy Carter grew up in DeKalb, Ga., rooting for former Bucs and Redskins quarterback Doug Williams. In fact, Carter wears No. 17 because it's the number Williams wore while winning a Super Bowl with Washington.

ABOUT FACE: Cowboys owner Jerry Jones knew his team needed a facelift, but he got one instead. Jones lost 55 pounds and had cosmetic surgery in the offseason. Reports are that Jones looks a lot better than his team.

WARNER OUT: Offensive center/guard Leon Hires was signed from the practice squad and defensive end Ron Warner released.

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