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Leinart Completes Switch

Ex-USC quarterback picks CAA and Condon to handle his NFL negotiations after dropping Steinberg.

April 19, 2006|Gary Klein and Greg Johnson | Times Staff Writers

Matt Leinart hired Hollywood heavyweight Creative Artists Agency and longtime NFL player agent Tom Condon on Tuesday to handle his NFL contract negotiations. Last week, the former USC quarterback dropped agent Leigh Steinberg.

"After lengthy discussions with my family, I felt it was in the best interest for my professional football career to have all of my representation combined," Leinart said in a statement. "My good friend and agent, Chuck Price, and Tom Condon of CAA Football will oversee my professional representation."

Leinart released his statement just minutes before taking to the field at USC to work out for General Manager Mike Tannenbaum, Coach Eric Mangini and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer of the New York Jets. The trio watched as Leinart tossed balls to a receiving corps that included former USC running backs Reggie Bush and Andre Woodert and NFL receiver Az-Zahir Hakim.

Leinart was scheduled to travel to New Orleans today and Oakland on Thursday to meet with representatives of the Saints and Raiders. He'll head into the April 29 NFL draft under the guidance of Price, his longtime associate, and Condon, an agent whose roster of NFL players includes quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Eli Manning.

Leinart's late substitution of Condon for Steinberg marked another important step for CAA, best known for representing such entertainment stars as Tom Cruise and Angelina Jolie. The Beverly Hills talent agency shook up the player-representation industry earlier this month by hiring three agents -- Condon, fellow football agent Ken Kremer and baseball player agent Casey Close -- who brought more than 70 professional athletes to the agency.

CAA is betting that it can build a profitable business by using its representation savvy to negotiate player contracts as well as create off-the-field business opportunities for its new clients -- including potentially lucrative entertainment-related ventures.

During Tuesday's workout, Condon compared the credentials of Leinart, who won a pair of national championships and a Heisman Trophy, to those of Archie Griffin, the Ohio State running back who won two Heismans. Besides his size and athleticism, Condon said, Leinart had "two really important characteristics ... intelligence and character. He's got both in spades, so he ought to have a very successful career."

Condon added that he wouldn't be surprised if Leinart were the first pick on NFL draft day.

"Houston's obviously made a commitment to David Carr so you would assume they're not taking a quarterback," Condon said. "But the history of the draft is replete with examples of teams trading up for the first pick and that type of thing. You wonder about it and people speculate about it, and you don't know till draft day, typically."

Condon also downplayed suggestions that Leinart's decision to switch agents just weeks before the NFL draft would have any impact on when he's picked or the value of his contract.

"As far as the NFL is concerned, it's basically a non-factor," Condon said. "With veteran players, it happens routinely. With rookie players it happens. It certainly wouldn't be an unusual occurrence."

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