Wednesday, August 22, 2001
Cowboys release injured tight end LaFleur
By RAY BUCK
c.2001 Fort Worth Star-Telegram
OXNARD, Calif. Tight end Mike Lucky, who last appeared
in a game nearly 13 months ago, is being counted on to replace
former first-round draft choice David LaFleur, who was waived
LaFleur, 27, was officially released//failed physical
with a herniated disk and a degenerative back condition that
has prevented him from practicing with the team since December.
Our medical people just felt that we had done about all
that could be done in terms of additional treatment, (epidural)
shots or surgery. We were dealing with a chronic situation,
owner Jerry Jones said. It's very regrettable for both
David and for us.
The 6-foot-7, 275-pound LaFleur's chronic back condition was
similar to that of Troy Aikman, who was released in March and
retired a month later. Also similar to Aikman's treatment, LaFleur
received a series of epidural and facet-blocker shots in May
LaFleur returned to Dallas and, through his representative, said
he wants to play for another NFL team as soon as he is healthy.
He's not retiring, agent Rick Smith said. The
word isn't in his vocabulary.
LaFleur missed all of the 2000 preseason with a groin//pelvic
irritation, yet played in 15 of the 16 regular-season games.
But Dave Campo said he didn't have a good read on when
or if LaFleur would be ready to return this time.
In all honesty, his conditioning wasn't as good now as
it was a year ago, Campo said. It was time to move
The Cowboys have four healthy tight ends in camp. Jackie Harris
will be used primarily in passing situations, although there
are formations suited to the 12th-year player in which his blocks
require more technique than brawn.
LaFleur's departure leaves the Cowboys with the 6-6, 273-pound
Lucky as the lone healthy blocking tight end in camp. Lucky hasn't
seen game action since tearing three of four ligaments in his
right knee nearly 13 months ago. This is only his second week
to resume team drills.
The Cowboys also waived tight end//long snapper Ryan Collins,
along with defensive end Aaron Fields.
Tight end//long snapper Ricky Brady will be brought in for a
tryout as early as today. This is the second appearance in two
years at a Cowboys' camp for the 6-4, 265-pound 30-year-old.
He last played in the XFL and has been cut seven times by NFL
Johnny Huggins and Mark Whalen, a pair of finesse-style tight
ends, are already in camp.
Huggins' stock as a tight end//fullback//long snapper is rising.
Whalen led the NCAA in receptions for tight ends in 1999 at Kentucky
and with NFL Europe this spring. He can play slot receiver in
nickel sets. But neither Huggins nor Whalen has any NFL regular-season
LaFleur, the Cowboys' 1997 first-round draft choice (22nd overall),
was to be the focal point of the Chan Gailey offense
in 1998. But Gailey was gone after two seasons and, although
LaFleur had 55 of his 85 career receptions in that offense, he
will be remembered mostly as a blocker in a Cowboys uniform.
David was a warrior. He played hurt. He was underrated,
Jones said. He made a significant contribution, especially
to our running game.
Special teams/tight ends coach Joe Avezzano described LaFleur
as a selfless, stoic and smart player who did all that was asked
of him, adding, Most people in today's society think that
first-round draft choices are supposed to be Hall of Famers or
they're not any good.
Since he didn't retire, LaFleur can file an injury grievance,
which would cost the Cowboys one-half of his $940,000 base salary
this season while the case is pending, and the other half next
season if the claim is upheld.
Smith said LaFleur has 25 days to invoke his rights.
There is no animosity between David and the Cowboys,
Smith said. But there's no secret what they're doing. David
was to make $940,000. He was injured. If we can't come to some
(settlement) ... then, at the very worst, only half of his salary
counts against the cap for them this year.
All content copyright 2001,
AP, KRT, The Abilene Reporter-News
and Reporter OnLine