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Carter clears waivers, denies cocaine report

Quincy Carter's Cowboys career is over. But his NFL career isn't, as long as another team is willing to give the quarterback another look.

Carter cleared waivers Thursday and, thus, becomes an unrestricted free agent who is free to sign with any team.

Where will he end up? That's still unknown, but ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported Thursday night that the Minnesota Vikings contemplated putting in a waiver claim for Carter, but passed.

In a virtually unexplained move Wednesday, Dallas cut the player
who began camp just four days earlier as its No. 1 quarterback.
Carter started every game last season, when the Cowboys won 10
games and made the playoffs in coach Bill Parcells' first year as coach.

Sources close to the team told ESPN and ESPN.com that Carter tested positive for an illegal substance before being released. Meanwhile, ESPN.com's Len Pasquarelli has confirmed that Carter spent time at a drug rehabilitation facility within the past 18 months. Carter already was in the NFL's substance abuse program, having tested positive for an illegal substance in the past.

League sources told ESPN.com that despite the positive test, Carter is not under suspension by the league.

It's unclear whether Carter failed a league- or club-administered drug test. But the possibility the test was given by the team, and not the NFL, drew the ire of union chief Gene Upshaw, according to The Washington Post.

"I just heard about this," Upshaw told the Post for Thursday's editions. "I won't comment on a drug case. I will say under our collective bargaining agreement a club cannot conduct its own, independent drug testing and impose its own discipline. They just can't do it."

Jones said late Thursday he hadn't been contacted by the league
or the players' union about Carter's unexpected release, and didn't
know if he would. But Jones said he would be willing to share with
those groups any information they would want.

"It would be speculation to sit here and ask if I got contacted
by them to assume there was a problem," Jones said. "But it's not
an issue. That was the last thing that I was concerned about
relative to anything that's transpired."

According to a broadcast report, Carter tested positive for cocaine, but in an interview with The Dallas Morning News, Carter said he was stunned by his release and called the aforementioned report "ridiculous."

"I'm shocked. I'm at a loss for words," Carter told the newspaper. "The one thing I know and the people who have been around me all my life know is that cocaine has never been an issue for me. It never will be. And it's disturbing that a rumor like that would come out.

"I have not one bad thing to say about the Dallas Cowboys, [coach] Bill Parcells or [owner] Jerry Jones. I have a lot of friends on that team. I just want my teammates and fans to know that cocaine rumor is ridiculous."

Carter was mum about other aspects of his substance-abuse testing, however.

"I can't discuss anything about the NFL's substance-abuse policy," Carter told the newspaper. "The NFL can't discuss anything, and the teams can't discuss anything."

Cowboys sources told The Morning News that Jones and Parcells weren't comfortable that Carter was one failed test away from a suspension, so they cut him.

The Cowboys remained vague Thursday about the reasons for Carter's
release, and Parcells said he was focused on the future.

"I'm not going to talk about this subject anymore. It's not
worth it, doesn't really mean anything now," Parcells said. "I
want to go where I know I've got to go now."

In Wednesday's news conference to announce the move, Jones wouldn't specifically answer questions about reports that Carter violated the NFL's substance-abuse policy for a second time or say if Carter's release was based on non-football issues.

"I think that we should leave it at it just was not a difficult
decision, and not get into a definition of what it was about,"
Jones said.

The quarterback left camp Wednesday wearing a gray-hooded Cowboys
sweatshirt soon after being informed of the decision by Parcells
and Jones.

Parcells said just this week that Carter had "a leg up" at
quarterback. After the first camp workout Saturday, Carter said he
was confident of remaining the starter and didn't consider himself
in an open competition for the job.

The coach wouldn't say why there was such a drastic change in
direction.

"I just couldn't keep him in the plans," Parcells said. "I'm
saddened by this because I've got 18 months invested in it ... two
offseason programs and a regular season and a playoff game."

Asked why the decision wasn't made earlier, Parcells said, "We
only make decisions based on the information we have."

Carter was a rookie in 2001 when he became Troy Aikman's
successor after Banks was cut. This time, 40-year-old Vinny Testaverde takes over as the starter.

The Cowboys went 10-6 last season when Carter threw for 3,302
yards and 17 touchdowns. But he had 21 interceptions, one of the
highest totals in the league.

Testaverde reunited with Parcells this summer hoping for a
chance to start again. The Cowboys also traded for Drew Henson, a
top prospect out of Michigan who spent the past three years playing
baseball in the New York Yankees' minor league system.

Parcells said Testaverde, who has 40,943 career yards passing,
would start when the Cowboys play their season opener Sept. 12 at
Minnesota. The coach plans to spend as much time in camp as
possible getting Henson and second-year quarterback Tony Romo ready to play.

"Vinny's a very unselfish player. He'll do his very best to
monitor and help Henson and Romo," Parcells said. "I'm
comfortable with the player and our team will be comfortable with
the player."

Parcells said there were no plans to bring more quarterbacks to
camp.

The coach spoke to the team about Carter's departure after the
first of two practices Wednesday. Testaverde worked primarily with
the starters during the afternoon workout.

"That's good to know that you've got a veteran player at that
position," defensive end Greg Ellis said. "Vinny's been under
Bill for a while, so he knows Bill and I'm pretty sure he knows his
plays, so I'm sure he can step in and get it done."

Carter threw for 3,302 yards and 17 touchdowns in his only full
season as the starter, but his 21 interceptions were among the most
in the league. He was 16-15 as a starter.

After starting the first seven games in 2002, Carter lost the
starting job to Chad Hutchinson, who was cut by the Cowboys just
before camp began last week.

Testaverde was a Pro Bowl selection in 1998, when he led the New
York Jets to the AFC title game under Parcells, but tore his
Achilles tendon in the 1999 season opener. He lost his starting
job to Chad Pennington two seasons ago.

While starting the first seven games last season when Pennington
was injured, Testaverde completed 123 of 198 passes for 1,385
yards, with seven touchdowns and two interceptions.

Testaverde, one of just nine players with more than 40,000
career yards passing, said he doesn't have to change his demeanor.

"For the most part, I approach it the same way," he said. "I
came here to prepare myself as a starting quarterback. I was
competing as if I was going to get the starting job."

The Cowboys traded for Henson, a top prospect out of Michigan
who spent the past three years playing baseball in the New York Yankees' minor league system. Romo didn't play during his rookie
season.

"Nothing's changed on my part," Henson said. "I'm trying to
learn as fast as I can, I'm not trying to accelerate anything. I'm
working as quickly and as hard as I can."

Information from ESPN.com senior writer Len Pasquarelli and The Associated Press was used in this report.