Doctors say Dixon Edwards can play football. He says he can't.
Edwards, a veteran of 18 playoff games and two Super Bowls, left the Miami Dolphins on Wednesday and may sit out the season because of an irregular heartbeat.
The 31-year-old linebacker was aware of the problem last year, when he started 14 games for the Minnesota Vikings. He participated in Miami's first three training camp workouts last week, then underwent further tests.
"He has seen four different doctors and cardiologists, one in Dallas in February and three other doctors in South Florida," coach Jimmy Johnson said. "All four have cleared him to practice and to play. All four have said he's got a healthy heart. For that reason, we're leaving the door open for him to return to the squad at a later date."
Defensive coordinator George Hill said Edwards' return is a long shot. The Dolphins released him and terminated his contract, and Edwards returned the $350,000 signing bonus he received for joining Miami in June as a free agent.
"We felt like he would come in here and contribute," Hill said. "It's a terrible shame, and I hope the best for him."
Drafted by Johnson and the Dallas Cowboys in 1991, Edwards has been a starter since 1993. He spent the past three seasons with the Vikings, and his tackle totals declined from 122 in 1996 to 56 in 1998.
Minnesota released him after last season. The Dolphins, looking to further strengthen a defense that allowed the fewest points in the NFL last year, signed Edwards to a one-year, $750,000 contract.
He met Wednesday morning with Johnson before leaving camp.
"He has concerns," Johnson said. "He'll be working with a nutritionist to try to alleviate his concerns, and so he could have a change of mind here at a later date."
Edwards was expected to challenge two-year starter Derrick Rodgers at outside linebacker. Rodgers' productivity fell off sharply last year, to 56 tackles and 2 1/2 sacks from 91 tackles and five sacks as a rookie in 1997.
"It was my job to lose," Rodgers said. "I'm still competing against myself. If no one is around to push me, am I going to slough off? No."
But even if Rodgers regains his rookie form, the Dolphins now have little depth at linebacker behind him and the other starters, Robert Jones and Zach Thomas. O.J. Brigance and Sammie Burroughs are sidelined with back injuries, and Anthony Harris underwent groin surgery Tuesday that will sideline him for at least 10 weeks.
Edwards cleared out his locker and checked out of his hotel room without talking to teammates or reporters. His agent didn't return phone calls seeking comment.
Jones, who played with Edwards on two Super Bowl championship teams, shook his head in reaction to the sudden departure of his fellow linebacker.
"The day he decided not to practice, I knew something was seriously wrong, becaus he's not the type of guy to quit," Jones said. "He can play through pain. But you've only got one heart."
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