George: 'Change may be good'
The franchise's leading career rusher rejected the team's latest pay cut offer Monday night and asked to be released. He wants a quick decision with training camps starting to open July 27.
The Titans aren't ready to act quite so fast.
"We want to take our time and make sure everyone involved understands the ramifications of this action," general manager Floyd Reese said Tuesday in a statement that was the team's first comment on the request by the team's leading career rusher to be released.
"I don't think taking a day or two of reflection for something of this magnitude is a bad thing."
The eight-year veteran asked Monday to be released after rejecting the Titans' last offer to reduce his pay from $4.25 million to approximately $1.5 million for the 2004 season. The team needs to clear cap room to sign its 13 rookies.
"Basically, we're just talking about taking a straight pay cut," George told The Associated Press on Monday night. "I didn't see the win-win situation. If I'm helping the organization out, I thought they would help me out and have a win-win situation and I would basically make my money up in incentives."
Reese said hearing that request was difficult.
"We want to make sure that at the end of this scenario, we do what is best for both sides and hope to have a resolution in the near future," Reese said.
The four-time Pro Bowl selection wants a quick release because the first NFL training camp opens on July 27, and he needs to start seeking a new job immediately. He said change may be good.
"I hate to sever the ties here. My first and only option was to finish a Tennessee Titan under fair circumstances. Unfortunately, that's not how I perceive it at this point. I look to move forward in a new situation," George said.
Asked during an interview on ESPN radio on Monday where he'd like to play if he doesn't return to the Titans, George singled out the Eagles, Buccaneers and Cowboys.
"I'd like to get with a team that's on the brink of possibly winning the Super Bowl," George told Trey Wingo on The Dan Patrick Radio Show. "Obviously, a team with a need at the position. ... Of those three, that would be a possibility that I would be looking forward to."
George's agent, Lamont Smith, said team officials told him they wanted to "kick it around" and get back to them.
Speculation over George's future with Tennessee began last season over whether the Titans, in deep salary cap trouble, could afford to keep a running back of George's stature.
George is only the second NFL running back, with Jim Brown, to rush for 10,000 yards while never missing a start. Only Walter Payton (170) and Ricky Watters (114) have started more consecutive regular-season games than George's 128.
Last December, George became the 17th running back to top 10,000 yards. He has 10,009 yards and 64 touchdowns for the franchise that drafted the 1995 Heisman Trophy winner in 1996. His best season was in 2000, with fullback Lorenzo Neal, when he carried 403 times for 1,509 yards.
George, who turns 31 in September, said he still considers himself an every-day, every-down back.
"What's there to question? I've been there every weekend, every single Sunday," he told ESPN's Wingo. "My numbers have diminished in the past two or three years, and that's the only reason because of how I've been used in the offense. I believe I can do it. I can carry the load."
The Titans have evolved into an offense that now looks to pass first behind Steve McNair, the NFL's co-MVP last season after leading the league with a quarterback rating of 100.4.
George has been known throughout his eight seasons for his work ethic, which includes regular yoga sessions to maximize his flexibility. He had one of his best games in a couple seasons last January during a playoff victory over Baltimore when he ran for 88 yards despite dislocating his left shoulder.
He attended the team's offseason minicamps as he recovered from operations on his right knee and left ankle. But NFL teams start opening camps over the next two weeks.
"I think I've had the opportunity to train hard, to work hard year in and year out," George told Wingo. "I know backs that have played this game longer than I have and still have been able to carry the load."
Brown rushed for 221 yards last season, averaging 3.9 yards per carry. George averaged 3.3 yards a carry and had five touchdowns.
George is under contract through 2006 and was due to make $4.25 million this season. The Titans asked him in February to rework his contract and paid him a $1 million roster bonus in March.
But the salary cap-strapped Titans, whose woes are only expected to worsen in 2005, need to clear space to sign their 13 draft picks before training camp starts July 31.
Smith said they gave the Titans a counteroffer two to three months ago that would have shaved $3 million from their salary cap, only to see team officials stick close to a proposal of approximately $1.5 million this season with less money each year through 2006.
"In essence, the deal we had on the table doesn't assure me of anything but a one-year deal," George said. "I don't plan on retiring after next year."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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