Suggs fails physical, trade to Jets voided

Updated: August 15, 2006, 9:14 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. -- Running back Lee Suggs failed his physical with the New York Jets on Tuesday, voiding his trade from Cleveland.

Derrick Strait
Strait
Lee Suggs
Suggs

Suggs, who has had myriad injuries throughout his four-year career, was brought in to help bolster the group of backs struggling without the injured Curtis Martin. Now he is headed back to the Browns. Cornerback Derrick Strait, who was sent to Cleveland in the deal made Monday, returns to New York.

"We have a whole series of tests that we do, and we were very thorough with the process," Jets coach Eric Mangini said. "He just didn't pass those tests. ... Each team has a criteria they set up that they believe is what's important and what's needed to be competitive. I'm very comfortable with the tests we have set up."

Despite Mangini's posturing, the voided trade is a setback for the Jets.

The spin here is that Suggs was acquired to ramp up competition at the tailback spot, but clearly the Jets felt he was an upgrade over the young veterans already on the roster. Fifth-year veteran Derrick Blaylock and second-year pro Cedric Houston remain the top two tailbacks.

In a conversation with ESPN.com on Monday, following the announcement of the trade, Suggs said he was looking forward to getting a fresh start with a team that seemed to need his services. He is probably no better than the No. 3 tailback on the Cleveland roster.

A third-round pick in the 2004 draft, Strait has been a disappointment with the Jets, but the Browns have several injuries at the cornerback spot and needed him for depth. A former Oklahoma standout, Strait has played in 21 games in two seasons and has 43 tackles and one pass defensed.

But the Browns disputed the Jets' findings. Browns general manager Phil Savage noted that while Suggs has been injury prone, he hasn't missed any practice time this year and played in the first preseason game.

"Medical opinions can vary from team to team, and obviously this is one team's opinion," Savage said. "We anticipate Lee Suggs returning to the Browns and working hard in practice and preparing for the season to the best of his ability, just as he has shown throughout his career with the Browns."

Neither Strait nor Suggs made it back to their respective teams for practice Tuesday.

The 33-year-old Martin, who is No. 4 on the all-time rushing list, continues to rehab and his future is in doubt. Though Martin wants to play this season, it is unclear whether he will be able to. It has been eight months since he had surgery on his knee.

Suggs hasn't been able to stay on the field for the Browns, who selected him in the fourth round of the 2003 draft. At various times in his pro career, Suggs has been sidelined by injuries to a shoulder, neck, toe, ankle and thumb.

The Browns weren't told why Suggs failed his physical, and Cleveland coach Romeo Crennel wasn't sure if the Jets had to divulge their reasons for failing him.

"I doubt that they have to provide proof," he said. "It's just that their doctors didn't think he was fit."

Crennel also took issue with the Jets, and hinted that New York might have ulterior motives for failing Suggs.

"There's a possibility of any and everything," Crennel said. "I'm not ruling anything out. I might talk to Eric and find out what's going on."

Mangini worked for Crennel when they were both in New England.

Neither Strait nor Suggs made it back to their respective teams for practice Tuesday.

With Martin unable to practice because of a lingering right knee injury, the Jets needed depth at the position. Derrick Blaylock and Cedric Houston are taking the majority of snaps, but are not the type of backs to shoulder the load.

The 33-year-old Martin, who is No. 4 on the NFL's career rushing list, continues to rehab and his future is in doubt. Though Martin wants to play this season, it is unclear whether he will be able to. It has been eight months since he had surgery on his knee.

Suggs hasn't been able to stay on the field for the Browns, who selected him in the fourth round of the 2003 draft. At various times in his pro career, Suggs has been sidelined by injuries to a shoulder, neck, toe, ankle and thumb.

Mangini declined to give a timetable for Martin's return, and said the trade had no bearing on the future of the running back.

"We were looking at it as an opportunity to improve the competition at the position," Mangini said. "Our goal is to increase competition and to make our team that much more competitive and improve the team where we can."

He also didn't rule out future deals to bring in another running back.

"It's fair to assume that there could be a lot of moves," Mangini said. "The moves are going to be predicated on the opportunities, and the opportunities are going to based on whether that move can improve the team."

Houston and Blaylock were unaware that Suggs had failed his physical, wondering why the back wasn't at practice Tuesday.

"It's an unfortunate situation for Lee," Houston said. "I don't worry about that stuff. If I worried about that stuff, my football stuff won't fall in line. I just go out every day and try to get better."

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

ALSO SEE