ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Jeff George's attempted comeback into the
NFL is over for now. George, who has not played in an NFL game
since 2001, was among 20 players who were released or placed on
injured reserve by the Oakland Raiders on Saturday.
The No. 1 overall pick by Indianapolis in 1990, George signed
with the Raiders last week and was with the team in Seattle for
Oakland's final preseason game but did not play.
"Jeff knew that we wanted to bring him in and take a look at
him for a week," Raiders coach Art Shell said. "As I said when we
first brought Jeff in here, it was a precaution."
George hasn't played since 2001, when he was cut after two games
with the Redskins. He was signed by Seattle as insurance midway
through the 2002 season, but didn't play. Chicago signed him late
in the 2004 season, but he never played for the Bears, either.
But the release of George might not necessarily end his comeback attempt and, in fact, may have simply been a procedural move by the Raiders, aimed at not having to guarantee his full salary.
Because George is a "vested" veteran, with more than four seasons in the league, the collective bargaining agreement stipulates that his entire base salary is guaranteed if he is on the opening day roster. By cutting him now, the Raiders avoid that guarantee of $810,000 and can re-sign George after the opening game. If that happened, and he were released for a second time, Oakland would owe George just the prorated share of his base salary, not the full $810,000.
Oakland signed George on Aug. 28 because of concern over the
health of backup quarterback Andrew Walter, who has been nursing a
sore right shoulder. But Walter, a third-round pick in 2005, played
in the preseason finale against the Seahawks and showed no
lingering effects of the injury, persuading the Raiders to part
ways with George.
"Having Andrew like he was, we weren't sure so we wanted to
make sure we took a look at a veteran quarterback we liked for our
football team," Shell said. "He'll be on speed dial."
Earlier in the day, the Raiders traded starting wide receiver
Doug Gabriel to New England for an undisclosed draft pick. Gabriel,
a fifth-round pick in 2003, caught 37 passes for 554 yards and
three touchdowns last season. He had just four receptions for 51
yards and a touchdown this preseason.
Oakland also cut veteran cornerback Duane Starks, linebackers
Danny Clark, Ryan Riddle and Ricky Brown, defensive end Bryant
McNeal, running back Rod Smart, fullback Zach Tuiasosopo, wide
receivers Will Buchanon and Kevin McMahan, center Chris Morris,
guard Kelvin Garmon, tackles Jabari Levey and William Obeng,
defensive tackles Donnell Washington and Rashad Moore.
While the decision to part ways with George was somewhat
expected, Oakland's move to release Clark and trade Gabriel sent
mild shockwaves through the Raiders' locker room. Gabriel was
expected to start this season opposite Randy Moss while Clark
started 31 games for Oakland over the last two seasons and was
defensive captain in 2005.
"That one was hard on me, that one was the hardest," Shell
said of releasing Clark. "He gave us everything he had, worked
hard. Not to say the rest of them didn't, but this kid was demoted
to the second team and he worked his tail off and never said a
word, just kept working. Hopefully he'll catch on with somebody."
In another note, center Jake Grove returned to practice Saturday
after sitting out the final two preseason games with a shoulder
injury. Shell said he wasn't certain whether Grove would play
Monday night against San Diego in the season opener.
The Associated Press and ESPN.com senior writer Len Pasquarelli contributed to this report.