Can this marriage be saved?
By Bill Coats
Of the Post-Dispatch
Wednesday, Jun. 01 2005
Call him irrationally stubborn. Call him sadly delusional. Or call him
cunningly shrewd as he attempts to position himself for future work in the NFL.
Whatever the proper label, offensive tackle Kyle Turley wavers only slightly in
his belief that his days with the Rams are not about to end. "Stranger things
have happened, so I'm not going to rule it out," he said. "But I don't
anticipate that happening."
Realistically, Turley appears to be on the verge of becoming an ex-Ram -
perhaps as early as today. June 2 is the first day that NFL teams can release
players and spread the effect on the salary cap over two years rather than one.
A year ago today, the Rams cut quarterback Kurt Warner, their Super Bowl MVP in
Although he reports that the recovery from the back injury that sidelined him
for the 2004 season "is going really well," Turley figures to be the headliner
on this year's hit list. "If they do release me, then they'd be making a big
mistake at this point," said Turley, 28. "The back's feeling really good. The
biggest problem right now is the ... severe atrophy of my right leg muscles
that I've been struggling to recover from.
"That's a rigorous and long process, but it's coming back slowly but surely."
Still, the team appears to have little use for Turley, especially considering
the heft of his contract: He signed a six-year, $26.5 million deal after the
Rams acquired him from New Orleans in March 2003 for their second-round draft
pick in '04. Had Turley been released before today, the team would have
suffered a $7.29 million salary cap hit this year. Now, only $1.82 million
would count against the '05 cap, with the remaining $5.47 million applied next
Coach Mike Martz declined on Wednesday to discuss Turley's status, and attempts
to reach Jay Zygmunt, the Rams' president of football operations, were
Turley's agent, Tom Condon, did not return a phone message.
Orlando Pace, finally locked up in a long-term deal, is one of the league's
premier left tackles. The Rams took Florida State's Alex Barron in the first
round of the draft, and Martz installed him as the No. 1 right tackle - the job
that Turley held during the 2003 season.
Grant Williams, Blaine Saipaia and Scott Tercero also have started at tackle.
So, depth shouldn't be a major issue.
Turley came to St. Louis after five seasons with the Saints. A first-round
draft pick (seventh overall) out of San Diego State in 1998, Turley was a
starter from Day 1. But his time in New Orleans also was marked by conflict and
controversy. He engaged in several skirmishes, at times even battling his
teammates, and sparred often with coaches and team officials.
In November 2001, he tossed an opponent's helmet and incurred a 15-yard penalty
that scuttled the Saints' shot at a comeback win against the New York Jets.
After the trade to the Rams, Saints general manager Mickey Loomis called Turley
"a cancer on our team."
Turley started all 16 games at right tackle in 2003, when the Rams finished
12-4 and won the NFC West title. His troubles began after he had surgery in
March of 2004 for a herniated disc.
Martz said he expected him to be ready for minicamp, but Turley didn't return
to the practice field until the start of training camp in late July. He left a
few days later after the pain reoccurred.
That's when his relationship with Martz, and the team, began to unravel. While
Turley visited specialists over the next few weeks, Martz became irritated when
Turley failed to return his calls.
In early December, Martz boiled over. "I have no idea where (Turley) is," he
said. "I have no idea if he wants to play or can play. ... I have not seen
him." About a week later, Turley confronted Martz at Rams Park. The
conversation grew heated, and Martz later filed a complaint with NFL security,
asserting that Turley had threatened him - a charge that Turley strongly
The rift continued into the new year, with Turley taking jabs at Martz in
national interviews. Publicly, Martz refused to respond; privately, he seethed.
At that point, Turley's future with the Rams effectively had been quashed.
Yet Turley insists that he still could play for Martz. "I can sit there and
(curse) you right to your face, but that doesn't change what I'm going to do
for you on the football field," Turley said. "So, I don't understand what would
be the problem."
More important, he said, is rebuilding his career. The 6-foot-5 Turley played
at about 300 pounds when healthy. After the back problems limited his
weight-room work, he plunged to 235. He's at 260 now, which he acknowledged
isn't enough for an NFL offensive lineman. So, he's open to a position switch -
perhaps to defensive end or tight end.
"If I played offensive line, I might be putting myself in a compromising
position, being at 265 or 270 pounds," said Turley, who has been rehabbing
since early January at the Athletes Performance Institute in Tempe, Ariz. "I'm
not demanding that I play another position. I'm just trying to say, 'Hey, let's
look at it from a realistic standpoint.' Otherwise, it might take another year
possibly to continue putting the weight on."
Whether it's this season or next, whether it's here or elsewhere, Turley is
firm in his intention to return to the game.
"I don't want to go out like this; I want to go out on my terms. I want to make
it to the Hall of Fame," he said. "There's a chance for me to mend my wounds,
and I'm taking full advantage of that opportunity."