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Collins refuses to renegotiate in order to stay

NEW YORK -- With Eli Manning in town, Kerry Collins is ready to leave.

Collins, who took the New York Giants to the 2001 Super Bowl,
said his goodbyes Monday after five years with the team. While the
quarterback wasn't officially released, Collins and the Giants said
that would almost surely happen in the next few days.

General manager Ernie Accorsi confirmed to ESPN's Chris Mortensen that he had met on Monday morning with Collins, the Giants' quarterback for the last five seasons. Accorsi did not rule out releasing Collins, 31, but maintained in his interview with Mortensen that Collins was not told he'd be cut within the week, which is being reported by Newsday.

Collins' future with the team came into question after the Giants acquired the rights for Manning in a trade with the Chargers, who made the Mississippi quarterback the first pick in last weekend's draft.

Manning's salary makes it almost impossible for the team to have cap room for two highly paid quarterbacks. Collins will earn $7 million next season but will cost $8.95 million of the $80.6 million salary cap.

Collins attended a meeting and the team's offseason conditioning program Monday morning, at which time he was asked to meet with Accorsi in his office. Collins said he would not renegotiate his contract, and then left Giants Stadium around 10 a.m., according to Newsday's report.

"I figured there was no reason to hang around," Collins told The Associated Press.

Accorsi said there were two reasons the Giants had yet to make
the release official. He hadn't discussed it with new coach Tom
Coughlin and the team's owners, and there was always the
possibility another team would seek to trade for Collins. But he
conceded making a deal was remote because of Collins' high salary.

Accorsi also denied he suggested the quarterback take a pay cut,
as Collins asserted.

"He may have misunderstood," Accorsi said, adding that the
restructuring would have involved turning some of the salary into a
signing bonus and adding "voidable years" that Collins would
almost surely opt out of.

Another factor: Collins' impression that new coach Tom Coughlin
seemed ready to make Manning the starter almost immediately.

"Ernie told me that he felt Eli was one of the three or four best college quarterbacks he's seen in the last 20 years," Collins said. "Someone like Elway or Marino. Someone like that."

Collins was the first draft pick ever of the Carolina Panthers
in 1995 and quarterbacked them to the NFC championship game in
their second season in the league.

But two years later, plagued by problems with alcohol, he walked
into the office of coach Dom Capers and said he had to quit. The
Panthers released him and he was picked up for the rest of the
season by New Orleans.

The Giants signed him in 1999, and they helped rehabilitate his
life and career. He started seven games that season. The next,
Collins led them to the NFC championship, throwing for 381 yards
and five touchdowns in a 41-0 win over Minnesota in the conference
title game.

In the Super Bowl two weeks later, he was 15-of-39 for 112 yards
with four interceptions in a 34-7 loss to Baltimore. That contrast
typifies Collins -- he is among the best in the game when protected,
but limited by a lack of mobility and vulnerable to pressure.

Still, he started 67 straight games before spraining his ankle
last season, when the Giants' horrible offensive line was the main
factor in their 4-12 finish.

That finish put them in position to have a shot at Manning
because it gave them the fourth overall pick in the draft. That
position allowed them to put together a package to get the latest
member of football's first family of quarterbacks. Manning had been
taken first by San Diego, a team for which he had said he would not
play.

"I feel it personally because I invested a lot in bringing
Kerry here," Accorsi said. "But that's football. It's a business
and ultimately you have to make decisions that can be painful."

Collins said he realized being released this late would make it
difficult for him to land a starting job elsewhere.

"Most teams have their quarterbacks in place by this spot," he
said.

One possibility could be Baltimore where Jim Fassel, the Giants
coach during Collins' tenure in New York, is a consultant working
with quarterbacks. Second-year man Kyle Boller has been designated
as the Ravens' starter, but there is no one on the roster with
anything close to Collins' starting experience.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.