IRVING, Texas (AP) Ryan Leaf never saw the welcome the Dallas Cowboys had planned for him. He failed a physical because of a wrist problem and remains one of the NFL”s many unemployed veteran quarterbacks.
Leaf”s name and the number 16 were written in black on a strip of white tape over a locker in the Cowboys” clubhouse yesterday. Three pairs of shoes with 16 printed on the heel, a white practice jersey, a helmet and several unused hangers awaited him.
“It was an injury that concerned us enough that we couldn”t make a decision to put him on the roster,” Cowboys” owner Jerry Jones said. “I know he was disappointed. I don”t know that he was surprised. There”s no question he was surprised it would impact our decision as much as it did.”
Jones said that after an initial evaluation discovered the problem, specialists were brought in to give it a further look. He declined to give any more specifics.
Leaf left the team”s headquarters without talking to reporters, ducking in the front seat of a van to avoid being photographed.
“Ryan was excited with the Cowboys opportunity and he couldn”t be more disappointed about how it turned out,” said David Dunn, Leaf”s agent.
“I think right now, we”re going to explore all our options. The most important thing is his health and getting his wrist right.”
Dunn said he hopes the two sides can strike a deal once Leaf is healthy.
“I think Ryan thinks the world of Jerry and the Cowboys organization. My feeling is Jerry feels the same way about Ryan,” Dunn said.
Leaf, the second overall pick in 1998 draft after leading Washington State to a Rose Bowl loss against Micigan, was waived by San Diego in March and by Tampa Bay on Monday. The status of his once promising career is in limbo.
The Cowboys were interested in Leaf as their third stringer behind rookie starter Quincy Carter and second-year backup Anthony Wright. They were initially interested in Leaf in March, having considered him to replace Troy Aikman. But they couldn”t afford him then.
In Tampa Bay, the wrist problem caused Leaf pain but only forced him to miss two practices, said Bucs coach Tony Dungy.
Finances were the reason the Buccaneers waived Leaf on Monday, Dungy said, adding that the team was willing to keep four quarterbacks. Brad Johnson, Shaun King and Joe Hamilton were ahead of Leaf on the depth chart, which made him expendable.
“He did a good job for us,” said Dungy, whose team plays Dallas in the season opener Sunday. “I think it”s just a matter of getting in the right system and the right situation.”
The Chargers made Leaf the second pick in the 1998 draft, behind Peyton Manning, but got only four wins in three seasons including a season missed because of an injured throwing shoulder. He was waived in March.