| ||Tuesday, November 2|
|SAN DIEGO -- The short, troubled NFL career of Ryan Leaf hit a new low Tuesday when he was suspended for four weeks without pay and fined a week's salary for what teammates said was an obscenity-laced tirade at general manager Bobby Beathard and other San Diego Chargers personnel.
However, players and others in the organization, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Leaf yelled at Beathard and members of the strength and conditioning staff, apparently over a workout he was asked to do.The blowup came before a team meeting Monday, a day after San Diego's 34-0 loss at Kansas City. Coach Mike Riley and some players witnessed part of the exchange.
"We can't tolerate the undermining of discipline that's set for this team," Beathard said at a news conference. "It's something that we discussed, and to the man felt that it was something we could not avoid. It was an action we had to take."
Beathard refused to elaborate, other than to say the suspension had nothing to do with alcohol or drugs, and that it was prompted by something that happened Monday.
The suspension, the maximum allowed under the NFL's collective bargaining agreement, began Tuesday. Leaf's base salary is $250,000, so with the suspension and fine, he'll lose about $73,530.
Leaf got the richest contract in club history, including an $11.25 million signing bonus, after being taken with the second overall pick in the 1998 draft.
Leaf underwent surgery on his throwing shoulder July 26, but the Chargers kept him on the active roster. In his absence, Erik Kramer and Jim Harbaugh have 14 turnovers in three games, including consecutive losses to Green Bay and Kansas City in which the Chargers were outscored 65-3.
Leaf was registered Tuesday at the Coeur d'Alene Resort in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, the same hotel where he became engaged in July to a former Chargers cheerleader. A woman at the front desk said she was told to take messages for Leaf, who didn't immediately call back.
Leaf's agent, Leigh Steinberg, didn't return a phone call. Club president Dean Spanos was traveling, his secretary said.
Pro Bowl safety Rodney Harrison looked at the statement released by the Chargers, and concurred with a quote attributed to Beathard: "No player is bigger than the team."
Harrison was asked if Leaf had been given a fair chance by the organization. He said he thought Leaf was doing a good job in his rehabilitation, then added:
"You have to do it off the field, as well. You have to have the respect of people. You just can't talk to people in that way. People judge you off what you say and how you act. You just have to grow up.
"This is a tremendous step back for him in his progress as a person as well as a player. I really think that he did some immature things, which right now he's really paying for."
Leaf supposedly had turned his life around, but the list of indiscretions has kept growing.
"I think they've been more than fair enough with him," Harrison said. "They've given him opportunities to have chances in life he probably would never have if he were just an ordinary guy coming out of college. He makes tons of money and he really hasn't played."
With Stan Humphries forced into retirement after the 1997 season because of concussions, many thought Leaf would be the savior. Instead, his rookie season quickly turned disastrous.
In his third game, at Kansas City, he had the worst day ever by a Chargers quarterback, completing just one of 15 passes for 4 yards, with two interceptions and three lost fumbles. After the game, he yelled at a cameraman for the Chargers' TV show, and the next day screamed profanities at a reporter, with some of the tirade captured on videotape and shown nationwide.
He was benched after nine starts and made only one more appearance, finishing with 15 interceptions and just two TD passes, with four lost fumbles.
In June, he skipped part of the team's voluntary workout, then hurt his right shoulder once he returned. He aggravated the injury 20 minutes into the first training camp workout and underwent surgery.
He was quoted as saying he wanted out of San Diego when his
contract becomes voidable after the 2000 season. After a fan
heckled him, Leaf had to be restrained from confronting the man.
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