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 Hastings.
"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."
Ryan Leaf apologized to the Chargers for his outburst.(AP)
"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 reporters.
"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 apologize.
"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 while."
San Diego (4-7) has lost six straight games going in Sunday's home game against Cleveland.
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