| ||SAN DIEGO -- Ryan Leaf showed up for work at about 5:45 a.m.
Monday, and several hours later was on the practice field, throwing
passes. In between, he uttered the words that may have saved his
career with the San Diego Chargers.
The quarterback returned from his four-week suspension and
apologized to general manager Bobby Beathard and his teammates for
the outburst that got him barred from the team's headquarters.
The apologies were accepted. Now the Chargers, who've heard
similar apologies from Leaf, will see if he can put the troubled
first season and a half of his NFL career behind him.
Leaf, who had been rehabbing his surgically repaired right
shoulder, was suspended on Nov. 2. The previous day, he refused to
do a weight workout, then cursed Beathard and strength coach John
"You just cannot speak to your boss in that type of manner,"
Leaf said at a news conference "It was an incident that shouldn't
have occurred, and it did. I'm sorry for that."
Beathard accepted Leaf's apology during a 20-minute meeting.
"His demeanor was a little different," Beathard said. "I
can't really explain it. It was like, 'Hey, I've had enough of
this. Let's get going, I just want to be a football player.' "
Beathard said he had a message for Leaf, as well.
"I wanted to make sure that he would rid himself of any notion,
or crazy notion, he'd had in the past that I or we weren't behind
him. We'd be nuts not to want him to succeed. I think he
understands that. I just wanted Ryan to know that now he's back,
we'll offer him any support that we think will help him be the
quarterback that we expected and he wants to be."
Beathard, coach Mike Riley and many of his teammates said they'd
take Leaf's word.
"I thought it was a good meeting. I hope everything goes up
from here," Beathard said.
Leaf got up in a team meeting and apologized.
"The bottom line is, they want me to succeed, they want me to
be part of their team," Leaf said. "You've got to apologize to
them. You've got to make them understand that you're willing to do
anything you can to help them win, whether it's holding the
clipboard or throwing it 70 times a game. Just go out and do it."
Running back Kenny Bynum called it "a touching speech. We're
all glad he came back as a man."
Safety Michael Dumas noted that Leaf didn't read from a script,
as he did last year following a week's worth of clashes with
"It was genuine, from the heart," Dumas said. "Basically he
said he was ready to come back with a different attitude, put
things in the right perspective. He's not sure as to what he's
going to be able to give right now, but he will be making an
effort. It was definitely positive."
Starting quarterback Jim Harbaugh didn't think Leaf was going to
"I thought it really was great, though, that he did. I thought
it was sincere and from the heart.
"He's one of our own," Harbaugh said. "We're going to welcome
him back. We're going to protect him and do whatever we can to help
him. I think he feels the same way about the ballclub. Ryan Leaf's
the prodigal son of this organization."
Leaf said he agreed with the way the Chargers went about
suspending him, but there is a grievance pending on his behalf,
citing the severity of the penalty. Leaf was suspended without pay
and fined an additional week's salary, for a total of $73,530.
"That's a lot of money to me, and how I grew up with my
family," said Leaf, who has collected $8.3 million of his $11.25
million signing bonus he was awarded after being taken with the
second pick of the 1998 draft.
Leaf's agent, Leigh Steinberg, hasn't returned numerous phone
calls seeking comment since the suspension began.
Leaf returns as the No. 3 quarterback, behind Harbaugh and Moses
Moreno, and will run the scout team in practice.
He'll likely see some action this year, Riley said, even if it's
just for a series or two, like the Chicago Bears have been using
their top draft pick, Cade McNown.
"When it is time, though, I'm going to be as prepared as I
can," Leaf said. "I wasn't here for four weeks, and now I'm going
to make them sick and tired of me, you know, be sitting here from 6
in the morning till six at night. They'll probably say, 'Leave.' "
The team didn't practice Monday, but Leaf threw to two wide
receivers for about a half hour. He said he'd be back throwing on
Tuesday, the player's day off.
Leaf hasn't played since last Dec. 13, when he committed the
last two of his 19 turnovers. He threw only two touchdown passes in
10 games as a rookie.
One his way home, Leaf stuck his head in the door of the media
workroom and said, "This has been one of the best days in a long
San Diego (4-7) has lost six straight games going in Sunday's
home game against Cleveland.
| ||Leaf|| |
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