Little-used veteran walks out on 0-5 Miami

Updated: October 14, 2004, 6:56 PM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

Upset at a lack of playing time, veteran defensive end Chidi Ahanotu has gone AWOL from the Miami Dolphins and requested a trade from the winless franchise.

Chidi Ahanotu
Defensive End
Miami Dolphins
Profile
2004 SEASON STATISTICS
Tot Ast Solo FF Sack Int
3 2 1 0 1 0

While the effect is hardly the same as the abrupt departure of star tailback Ricky Williams before training camp -- Ahanotu, after all, has been rendered an NFL transient since being released by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after the 2000 season -- his actions continue what has been a bizarre season for the once-stable franchise.

Ahanotu, 34, signed with the Dolphins late in the summer as an unrestricted free agent, after the club dealt starting left end Adewale Ogunleye to the Chicago Bears. The plan was for Ahanotu, who played with the San Francisco 49ers in 2003, to be part of a committee approach to fill the vacancy created by Ogunleye's departure.

But the Dolphins subsequently signed former Bears starter Bryan Robinson, and his acquisition cut deeply into Ahanotu's playing time. The 12-year veteran has appeared in all five games for the Dolphins but has logged only about 25-30 snaps total.

Ahanotu met with team officials Monday to discuss his situation, apparently was not satisfied with what he heard and skipped the Wednesday practice. He was spotted in Tampa, where he began his NFL career, on Wednesday. It is believed he has no plans to report back to the Dolphins.

"I don't see any light at the end of the tunnel that this organization [plans] for me to be a major part of the team," Ahanotu told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

The onetime standout end, who signed a one-year contract for the veteran minimum base salary of $760,000, said his grievance with the Dolphins is more about his playing time than the club's currently miserable plight. That said, his actions now become part of a zany season Miami officials would prefer to forget, actions that figure to lead to sweeping offseason changes.

The league trade deadline isn't until Tuesday, but it is difficult to believe there is a market for an aging defender, and one who merited very little interest from other franchises when he was an unrestricted free agent this spring and summer. It is typical of Ahanotu, who often overestimated his value in recent seasons, to assume there might be a trade market for him.

A more likely scenario, if Ahanotu doesn't return, is that the Dolphins will release him or place him on one of the NFL's several reserve lists.

Ahanotu's best seasons came in his eight-year stint with the Bucs (1993-2000), where he was part of one of the NFL's best defensive lines, a performer good enough to have been designated a "franchise" player at one point. But after his release by the Bucs in 2001, for salary cap reasons, he has bounced around. Miami is his fourth team in four seasons.

In 12 years, Ahanotu has appeared in 166 games and started 135 of them. He has 420 tackles, 43 sacks, four forced fumbles and 22 pass deflections. His best season came in 1997, when he registered 10 sacks. With the exception of that '97 campaign, however, Ahanotu has never posted more than 6 sacks in a season.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here Insider.