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Wednesday, August 22, 2001

LaFleur’s Cowboys career comes to end


By Jean-Jacques Taylor
The Dallas Morning News
(KRT)

OXNARD, Calif. — When the Cowboys drafted David LaFleur with the 22nd pick of the 1997 draft, they
thought the 6-7, 272-pound tight end would revolutionize the position with his blocking and receiving skills.

But LaFleur never developed into a superstar, and his career with the Cowboys ended with his release Tuesday.

LaFleur, who has been plagued by injuries since the start of last season, ends his Dallas career with 85 receptions
for 729 yards and 12 touchdowns.

The Cowboys say the decision was made after LaFleur refused to retire. LeFleur said he was not asked to retire.

“He was hindered, and it was unfortunate because the expectations were high for him to do things in all phases,”
coach Dave Campo said. “I told him that I appreciated everything he had done for us and that he could hold his head
high about the things he accomplished. It’s unfortunate with David, but we have to move on.”

LaFleur said he informed team owner Jerry Jones that he would not be able to pass a physical, but that retirement
was not discussed.

“No, that was not part of the conversation,” he said. “It was basically {ellipsis} I wasn’t going to be able to pass
the physical, so they said it was time to move on.”

LaFleur has a herniated disk in his back and a degenerative back condition that made it impossible for him to play
football. He took two epidural injections to relieve the pressure on the nerve and alleviate the pain, but his back did
not significantly improve.

After playing a painful pelvic irritation last season, LaFleur was placed on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP)
list before training camp because of the back problems.

The back prevented him from participating in the club’s final two mini-camps.
“I don’t know if we ever had a read on whether he’d ever be able to play this season,” Campo said.

Because the Cowboys released him while he was injured, LaFleur could file a grievance through the NFL Players
Association.

“That’s something I’m going to have to sit down with my agent [to discuss],” LaFleur said.

Rick Smith, LaFleur’s agent, said his client holds now animosity toward the organization. Smith said LaFleur
understands it was a business decision.

LaFleur, scheduled to earn $942,000 this season, has 25 days to file a grievance. If he does, the Cowboys will
be charged about $700,000 against the cap until the case is heard.

It normally takes about a year for a mediator to hear the case and determine whether LaFleur was wrongfully
released and entitled to his salary or a portion of his salary for this season.

The Cowboys and LaFleur could also reach a financial settlement.

“We’ll talk to the Cowboys, and hopefully we don’t have to file a grievance,” Smith said. “I don’t think he’s
upset. We don’t blame the Cowboys.”

LaFleur will count $1.4 million against the club’s salary cap this season, meaning Dallas will spend more than $25
million worth of salary cap room on players no longer on their team.

Linebacker Dexter Coakley is now the only draft pick remaining on the roster from the 28 players the Cowboys
selected between 1995-97.

Trainer Jim Maurer said LaFleur’s back never improved enough to give him an opportunity to play. LaFleur had
just recently began light jogging.

“That was very encouraging, but it’s not even close to simulating what you have to do to be able to play this
game,” Maurer said. “We’re not even talking about jogging with a lot of authority.”

LaFleur caught only 12 passes for 129 yards and a touchdown last season, but he earned the respect of
teammates and coaches for playing through pain.

———
© 2001, The Dallas Morning News.
Visit The Dallas Morning News on the World Wide Web at http://www.dallasnews.com/
Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.


All content copyright 2001, AP, KRT, The
Abilene Reporter-News and Reporter OnLine

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