Leaf Flagged For Playing


Suspended San Diego Chargers quarterback Ryan Leaf played flag football at a local park during the weekend, disappointing team officials and raising questions about whether he violated his contract.

Coach Mike Riley said he spoke with Leaf on Monday, and the second-year pro admitted that he had played flag football on Saturday. According to reports, Leaf sprained an ankle and had to be helped off the field.

"I asked him if he played and he did play," said Riley, who chose his words carefully during his regular Monday news conference. "I asked him if he was hurt and he was not hurt."

Riley also said he told Leaf that he should have used better judgment.

"Just the fact that we would like to get his physical condition OK before he played any kind of football again," Riley said. "Obviously when he left at the suspension time, his shoulder was still bothering him. So, probably given the opportunity, we would have thought that wasn't a great idea."

Club president Dean Spanos sounded irritated while discussing Leaf.

"He's precluded from doing something like that by his contract, and I hope he wasn't doing it," Spanos said. "That's all I'm going to say. And I hope he didn't get hurt."

Leaf was rehabilitating his surgically repaired right shoulder when he was suspended for four weeks on Nov. 2 for cursing general manager Bobby Beathard and strength coach John Hastings.

Also Monday, backup quarterback Erik Kramer was discharged after spending three nights in a hospital for treatment of neck spasms. He was scheduled to see a spine specialist later Monday. Kramer had been suffering spasms since early Friday, and the team decided it would be best if he stayed in a hospital, trainer James Collins said. He missed Sunday's 23-20 overtime loss to Chicago, the Chargers' fifth straight loss.

Collins said Kramer is suffering from nerve root irritation and will be treated at team headquarters.

Beathard refused to comment on whether the Chargers would take action against Leaf.

"I have no idea," Beathard said. "We haven't even discussed that. I don't know all the details. We're all anxious to get him back in here and get going."

Leaf, whose short NFL career has been marked by poor play and boorish off-field behavior, cannot return to the team's headquarters until next Monday.

"He better be here and ready to work," Spanos said.

According to a clause in NFL contracts, players are not to play football other than for their team, or participate in any activity other than football which may involve a significant injury risk, without written permission.

New England Patriots running back Robert Edwards suffered a serious knee injury during a flag football game on a Hawaii beach as part of the Pro Bowl festivities in February.

When reached on his cell phone Monday afternoon, Leaf refused comment and then hung up. His agent, Leigh Steinberg, did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment. Steinberg hasn't returned numerous calls since Leaf was suspended.

The NFL Players Association has filed a grievance against the Chargers on Leaf's behalf, contending their punishment was too harsh. Leaf was suspended without pay and fined an additional week's salary the maximum allowed under the NFL's collective bargaining agreement for a total of $73,530. A team official said a hearing won't be scheduled until after the season.

The Chargers still owe Leaf a final $2.95 million installment on the $11.25 million signing bonus they awarded him after taking him with the second pick in the 1998 draft. That payment is due in March.

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