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NFL

Career Intercepted: Leaf Calls It Quits

July 27, 2002|PETER YOON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Embattled quarterback Ryan Leaf has, at least for now, ended a career of unfulfilled promise, failing to show for the start of Seattle Seahawks' training camp and informing the team he is retiring from football.

Leaf was not at Seahawk camp at Eastern Washington University in Cheney, Wash., on Thursday when quarterbacks were due to report.

Team officials had no further comment, except to say that Coach Mike Holmgren would address the situation after practice today. Leaf and his agent, David Dunn, did not return phone calls, but Seattle starting quarterback Trent Dilfer said he spoke with Leaf on Thursday night and learned that Leaf planned to retire.

"He seems at peace with it," Dilfer said. "I was surprised. I thought he had very productive minicamps and was learning and had turned a page in his career and was building back up."

Leaf, 26, signed a one-year, $525,000 contract with Seattle in May, one day after his release from the Dallas Cowboys. The No. 2 overall pick behind Peyton Manning in the 1998 draft by the San Diego Chargers, Leaf never found stardom, only four unspectacular and controversial seasons in the NFL.

He appeared in 25 games for San Diego and Dallas, completing 317 of 655 passes for 3,666 yards with 14 touchdowns and 36 interceptions. Leaf will most likely be remembered for a rap sheet of social maladies that includes run-ins with fans, teammates and reporters.

Soon after signing a reported five-year, $31.2-million contract with San Diego--which included an $11.25-million signing bonus--Leaf earned the nickname "Baby Boy" from teammates because of his immaturity.

A tantrum in the locker room that same year was replayed countless times on television. In 1999, he confronted a fan during training camp and served a four-week suspension later that year for criticizing Bobby Beathard, the Chargers' general manager at the time. He sat out that season after undergoing shoulder surgery.

In 2000, he left a preseason workout outraged after teammate Fred McCray chastised the quarterback for being "fat" and "out of shape." Other teammates openly criticized Leaf during that season and he was released by the Chargers in March 2001.

He tried to catch on with Tampa Bay but failed that team's physical. Dallas took a chance and signed Leaf, who couldn't pass the Cowboys' physical at first because of an injury to his right wrist. He finally signed with Dallas in October of that year and started three games, all losses. The Cowboys released him in May.

Jack Johnson, who coached Leaf at Charles M. Russell High in Great Falls, Mont., heard the news of Leaf's retirement Thursday from Brady Leaf, Ryan's younger brother who will be Johnson's starting quarterback this fall.

"The last couple of years have been frustrating for [Ryan]," Johnson said. "I'm disappointed, his family is disappointed, Brady is shook up. It's shocking. I thought he could compete for the [starting] job."

Although he was drafted after Manning, many scouts had said that the 6-foot-5, 250-pound Leaf had more raw talent. Leaf has struggled since injuring his wrist against the Seahawks in 2000, but he was sharp in a June minicamp.

"His ability to pass is going to be hugely important to him in the future," Holmgren said then. "In Dallas, he said [the wrist] didn't bother him. It hasn't bothered him since he's been here. But he had an injury to it and any time a quarterback injures something like his wrist, you're going to be thinking about it."

Holmgren will open the season with Dilfer as his No. 1 quarterback and Matt Hasselbeck as his backup.

Leaf would have been competing for the No. 3 job against rookies Jeff Kelly of Southern Mississippi and Ryan Van Dyke of Michigan State.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

*--* Fallen Leaf With his retirement, Ryan Leaf ends his career as one the worst quarterbacks drafted in the first round since 1990:

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*--* Rat Quarterba Pick Teams Years TD Int ck 29.2 Jim 26th SF, Mia 1997-00 1 4 Druckenmi ller 49.3 Tommy 25th Den., LA Rams,NYG, 1992-9 7 15 Maddox Pitt 5, 2001- 50.0 Ryan Leaf 2nd SD, TB, Dal., Sea 1998-01 14 36 52.3 Dan 16th Sea., Mia 1991-95 2 6 McGwire 54.2 Akili 3rd Cin 1999- 5 12 Smith 54.3 Heath 3rd Wash., NO 1994-97 15 33 Shuler 63.4 Rick Mirer 2nd Sea., Chi., GB, NYJ, 1993- 47 71 SF, Oak 63.5 Andre Ware 7th Det., Minn., Oak 1990-9 5 8 4, 1999 65.1 David 6th Cin.,Oak 1992-97 16 22 Klingler 66.4 Todd 24th Oak 1991-92 8 9 Marinovic h 67.7 Cade 12th Chi., Mia., SF 1999- 16 19 McNown Roy Jurgens

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