SAN DIEGO — Quarterback Rick Neuheisel decided Tuesday to stay in law school instead of joining the Chargers. It was a decision that cost him two days of sleep, two days of classes and $20 worth of gasoline.
After spending a couple days here negotiating with, in order, the Charger front office, the striking Charger players and himself, Neuheisel drove back to his Los Angeles home Tuesday and figured he'd better not cross the picket line.
He said his decision was final "for now," but--on the other hand--he said, "You can always change your mind."
Asked to elaborate, he said: "What I mean is that the scales could tip. . . . If 10 (striking) Chargers crossed the picket line tomorrow, well, let's just say there are a lot of variables."
Steve Ortmayer, the Chargers' director of football operations, said he was sorry to hear Neuheisel's announcement. "Law school's gain is our loss," he said.
But, undaunted, Ortmayer continued negotiations with another quarterback, Tom Flick, and also reached agreement Tuesday with three other players: 340-pound guard/tackle Curtis Rouse and tight ends Harry Holt and Brian Lebel.
The Chargers' non-union roster now sits at 61 players, and 16 must be cut before Sunday's game in Cincinnati.
Neuheisel, a third-year law student at USC, said he wrestled with his decision, so much so that he couldn't sleep Sunday or Monday night. He was still uncertain Tuesday morning, so he visited striking Chargers during their informal workout on the UC San Diego campus. He spent much of his time talking with Wes Chandler, the Chargers' player representative, but Neuheisel said it wasn't Chandler who talked him back into law school.
"I do, I really want to play football," Neuheisel said Tuesday evening. "Hopefully, I will again, someday. But this isn't the time. Listen, in no way am I in total agreement with the players. At times, they have been immature during this strike. I'm not on either side. I'm in the middle. So I'll just go back to school."
Said Ortmayer: "Sure, I'm disappointed. I can't think of one good reason why Rick shouldn't play. I'll be talking to Flick."
Flick, who, with Neuheisel, was waived by the Chargers during training camp, said Tuesday he still hasn't decided whether to cross the picket line.
As of now, the starting Charger non-union quarterback is Mike Kelley, formerly of the USFL Tampa Bay Bandits and Memphis Showboats.
"He can play," Ortmayer said. "It's just that we'd like to have a guy who's been in our system."
Of Tuesday's new players, Ortmayer was most excited about Rouse, a guard/tackle who has spent five seasons with the Minnesota Vikings. Rouse, who will try and trim down to 325, said he chose the Chargers over the Washington Redskins and Atlanta Falcons.