The Indianapolis Colts gave defensive lineman Steve Emtman an ultimatum - renegotiate or be released.
Emtman, the former Cheney High School and University of Washington phenom, sounds like he’ll take the release and take his injury-plagued career elsewhere.
The Colts, trying to maneuver under the salary cap, said Thursday they can’t afford his contract for this season.
Bill Tobin, the team’s director of football operations, called the decision the “toughest I’ve made since joining the Colts.”
Emtman, the No. 1 pick in the 1992 NFL draft, has been beset by injuries since joining the team from the UW. Tobin said the team will give Emtman an unconditional release today if no deal is struck.
“Currently he is totally healthy; he is ready to play football,” Tobin said. “But we still have a pattern here of injury and we’re asking him to assume some risk that they (Emtman and agent Marv Demoff) haven’t been willing to risk.”
Emtman counts $3.025 million toward the salary cap this year under the four-year deal he signed in 1992.
Emtman told The Indianapolis Star he would not accept the Colts’ offer and would likely sign with a different team.
“Steve Emtman is not going to accept $700,000 by 3 o’clock (today),” Emtman said. “If they are waiting for something to happen before (the deadline), they can forget it. They can waive me right now….
“If I clear waivers, I won’t be back. I would play for the minimum with someone else rather than come back.”
Emtman told the newspaper he and Demoff had tried to renegotiate the contract for the past three months but the Colts expressed no interest in doing so until earlier this week, when they presented a take-itor-leave-it offer.
When Emtman reported to Colts camp Wednesday, he said he didn’t want to dwell on past injuries.
“I’m ready to go,” he said at the time. “I want to play.”
Tobin said he had talked to Emtman and he had left training camp.
“We have been trying to renegotiate to give the Colts some cap relief from the fourth year (of Emtman’s contract),” Tobin said. “So far that’s been unproductive.”
Since his rookie season Emtman’s had a series of trips to the operating room, starting with reconstructive surgery on his left knee after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament as a rookie.
Five games into the 1993 season, he tore the anterior cruciate ligament, the medial collateral ligament and a tendon in his right knee.
After going through rehabilitation following reconstructive surgery of the right knee, Emtman played for the first time in almost a year last October. But after four games it was back to surgery for a herniated disc in his neck.
“It’s just a matter of playing football now,” he has said. “I’ve got the confidence back in my body. I just want to play and keep my mouth shut.”
What makes his injury problems more bizarre is the fact that Emtman never missed a game because of injury while playing high school football and basketball.
He also was available for every game during three seasons at Washington, where he helped lead the Huskies to a share of the national championship and a 12-0 record as a junior while winning the Lombardi Award and Outland Trophy.
“I don’t think there’s any player I’ve been associated with in football who has worked harder to prepare himself physically and mentally to play the game,” coach Ted Marchibroda said.
“He could walk away from football today financially secure, and everyone would understand. But he loves the game, has amazing determination. We’re all in his corner, not only as a football team, but in respect for what he’s put himself through to play the game.”
In another matter, the Colts waived defensive back Leonard Humphries and center Duane Conway after they failed physicals.
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