Turley still rehabbing from back injury

Updated: June 8, 2005, 2:25 AM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

Still at least three months away from being able to pass an NFL physical, and about 40 pounds under his normal playing weight, offensive tackle Kyle Turley has been released by the St. Louis Rams after failing a team-administered physical exam.

Kyle Turley
Turley

The split with Turley, who officially appeared on the NFL's transaction wire Monday as "waived-failed physical" following an exam in Arizona, where he has been rehabilitating from a debilitating back injury, ends a turbulent stint with the team. The bile between the seven-year veteran right tackle and coach Mike Martz spilled over into a much-publicized shouting match last December.

Following the imbroglio, precipitated in part when the coach suggested that Turley was not returning his phone calls and updating him on his physical progress, Martz filed a complaint with NFL security. In the complaint, Martz alleged Turley threatened him.

Even without the bitterness, it is doubtful that Turley, who is suffering from a herniated disc, would have returned to the club. The poisoned relationship between Turley and Martz, though, cemented the fact the tackle would not return to the Rams, even though he suggested as recently as last week that he was amenable to playing in St. Louis again.

The only question about Turley's status with the Rams was the timing of when the club chose to release him.

The addition of Turley to the free agent market further crowds the pool of veterans at the tackle position. The key difference, though, is that veterans such as Chris Terry, Kenyatta Jones, Scott Gragg and Aaron Gibson are physically cleared to play in 2005. Turley is probably several months from having even a remote chance of getting back onto a field in 2005, and might have to wait until 2006.

Within the last week, Dr. Robert Watkins, a Los Angeles back specialist who performed the surgery on Turley's disc in 2004, examined the offensive linemen and apprised him he needed several more months of rehabilitation. At that time, Turley remained optimistic he would play football again at some point.

"The back is feeling really good," Turley said. "The biggest problem right now is the severe atrophy of my right leg muscles, and I've been struggling to overcome that. That's a rigorous and long process, but it's coming back, slowly but surely."

Turley, 28, has made it clear he does not plan to retire. He will continue his rehabilitation and hopes to resume his career at some point, even if it means changing positions. A few months ago, Turley suggested he might come back as a defensive end, a position where he would not need as much weight, and which would submit his balky back to less strain.

The former San Diego State star, acquired by the Rams from New Orleans in 2003, had surgery on a herniated disc in March of 2004. But only about four months later, early in training camp, he re-injured his back. Turley adamantly refused to even consider further surgery and was placed on season-ending injured reserve on Aug. 28, 2004.

By waiting until after June 1 to release Turley, who with Orlando Pace provided St. Louis with one of the NFL's premier tackle tandems in 2003, the Rams have softened the blow against this year's salary cap. The team must pay Turley $250,000 because of his injury status and he counts an additional $1.82 million of prorated signing bonus money. The club does recoup his scheduled base salary of $3.65 million for 2005.

He will count $5.47 million against the Rams' salary cap in 2006. Turley was due base salaries of $4.4 million in 2006, $4.65 million in 2007 and $4.9 million in 2008.

Until his back problems surfaced last spring, Turley had missed just one game during his career, and had been a starter in each of his 95 regular-season appearances.

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