George asks for his release
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Eddie George insists he isn't being greedy, he just wants to be paid close to what he's worth.
Tennessee's career leading rusher rejected the team's latest contract offer Monday and asked the Titans to release him so he can land with a new team before training camp.
"Change may be good," George said Monday night.
"I hate to sever the ties here. My first and only option was to finish a Tennessee Titan under fair circumstances. Unfortunately, that's not how I perceive it at this point. I look to move forward in a new situation."
The Titans declined comment Monday night on the running back's request.
George's agent, Lamont Smith, said team officials told him they wanted to "kick it around" and get back to them.
But Titans owner Bud Adams said in May he was "pessimistic" about George returning to the team, even as general manager Floyd Reese and coach Jeff Fisher said they were hopeful a deal could be reached.
George is only the second NFL running back to rush for 10,000 yards while never missing a start, joining Jim Brown. Only Walter Payton (170) and Ricky Watters (114) have started more consecutive regular-season games than George's 128.
Last December, George became the 17th running back to top 10,000 yards. He has 10,009 yards and 64 touchdowns for the franchise that drafted the 1995 Heisman Trophy winner in 1996. His best season was in 2000, with fullback Lorenzo Neal, when he carried 403 times for 1,509 yards.
George is under contract through 2006 and was due to make $4.25 million this season. The Titans asked him in February to rework his contract and paid him a $1 million roster bonus in March.
But the salary cap-strapped Titans, whose woes are only expected to worsen in 2005, need to clear space to sign their 13 draft picks before training camp starts July 31.
Smith said they gave the Titans a counteroffer two to three months ago that would have shaved $3 million from their salary cap, only to see team officials stick close to a proposal of approximately $1.5 million this season with less money each year through 2006.
"In essence, the deal we had on the table doesn't assure me of anything but a one-year deal," George said. "I don't plan on retiring after next year."
The Titans have evolved into an offense that now looks to pass first behind Steve McNair, the NFL's co-MVP last season after leading the league with a quarterback rating of 100.4.
George has been known throughout his eight seasons for his work ethic, which includes regular yoga sessions to maximize his flexibility. He had one of his best games in a couple seasons last January during a playoff victory over Baltimore when he ran for 88 yards despite dislocating his left shoulder.
He attended the team's offseason minicamps as he recovered from operations on his right knee and left ankle. But NFL teams start opening camps over the next two weeks.
George, who turns 31 in September, spoke of Tampa Bay, Philadelphia and Dallas as potential options and said he wants to join a team with a chance of winning a Super Bowl.
"It's just going to be a shock now to see the new faces in the locker room, different city, different circumstances. All that being said, it's also exciting what the uncertainty does bring," he said.
"It could be a great situation I walk into to help a team win a championship."
If the Titans release George, it would leave them with second-year rusher Chris Brown, veteran Robert Holcombe and rookies Troy Fleming, Vick King and Jarrett Payton at running back.
Brown rushed for 221 yards last season, averaging 3.9 yards per carry. George averaged 3.3 yards a carry and had five touchdowns.