|Friday, July 26
Updated: July 27, 9:45 PM ET
Leaf retires rather than reporting to Seahawks' camp
As the starter and leader, Dilfer immediately called Leaf in the scenic town of Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, on Thursday night and learned of his plans to retire from the NFL.
The decision, confirmed by the Seahawks on Friday, ends a career that began in 1998 when he was the No. 2 overall draft pick and considered one of the NFL's most promising young quarterbacks.
"He seems at peace with it,'' Dilfer said. "This isn't a profession you should make a decision on what other people say. ... I was surprised. I thought he had very productive minicamps and was learning and had turned a page in his career and was building back up.''
Leaf did not report to camp Thursday, when quarterbacks were due at the team's facility at Eastern Washington University. His wife, Niki, told The Associated Press that Leaf did not want to talk about the decision. She declined to discuss his future plans.
Team spokesman Dave Pearson said on Friday that Leaf -- who fizzled in San Diego, Tampa Bay and Dallas -- told the Seahawks he is quitting.
Chargers safety Rodney Harrison, a frequent critic of Leaf, wasn't surprised.
"It was probably the best thing for him to do. He took his money and he ran,'' Harrison said. "He did what he had to do. I'm glad that issue is over in my life.''
Leaf is one of the biggest busts in NFL history.
In four seasons, Leaf appeared in 25 games, making 21 starts. He completed 317 of 655 passes for 3,666 yards, with 14 touchdowns and 36 interceptions. He had a dismal quarterback rating of 50.
Leaf not only failed to perform on the field but also alienated teammates and the media with frequent tirades, blaming others for his problems.
The 26-year-old Leaf signed with the Seahawks in May, a day after being released by the Cowboys.
Seahawks coach and general manager Mike Holmgren was not available for comment Friday, the team said. Attempts to reach Leaf's agent, David Dunn, were not immediately successful.
"I'm looking forward to a 15-year career, a couple of trips to the Super Bowl and a parade through downtown San Diego,'' Leaf said on the day he was drafted by the Chargers in 1998.
Now he has other plans, said Dilfer, who would not go into details.
"He's excited about what he's going to do next,'' Dilfer said.
Leaf had been battling an injured right wrist, which he hurt while playing for the Chargers against the Seahawks in 2000. The injury kept him from making Tampa Bay's roster during the 2001 preseason after the Chargers cut him.
He participated in Seattle's spring minicamps and said he was looking forward to another chance.
Leaf's high school coach in Great Falls, Mont., Jack Johnson, was shocked by Leaf's retirement.
Johnson heard the news from Leaf's younger brother, Brady, on Thursday. Brady will be the starting quarterback at Charles M. Russell High this fall.
"I haven't talked to Ryan in a long time. I don't know what's going on,'' Johnson said. "It's disappointing because he was back in our part of the country (to play) and you could watch a game.
"The last couple of years have been frustrating for him. I don't know if he lost interest and decided to hang them up. I'm disappointed, his family is disappointed, Brady is shook up. It's shocking. I thought he could compete for the (starting) job.''
The 6-foot-5, 248-pound Leaf was taken right after Indianapolis selected Peyton Manning with the No. 1 pick four years ago. Many scouts thought he was better than Manning, now one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL, and predicted an outstanding future for him.
"His ability to pass is going to be hugely important to him in the future,'' Holmgren said during a recent minicamp.
"In Dallas, he said (the wrist) didn't bother him. It hasn't bothered him since he's been here. But he had an injury to it and anytime a quarterback injures something like his wrist, you're going to be thinking about it.''
Holmgren will open the 2002 season with Dilfer as his No. 1 quarterback and Matt Hasselbeck as his backup. Leaf would have been competing for the No. 3 job against rookies Jeff Kelly of Southern Mississippi and Ryan Van Dyke of Michigan State.
Leaf was scheduled to earn the NFL minimum salary of $525,000 and he would have counted $450,000 against the salary cap in 2002.