Raiders go way back, sign inactive quarterback George

Updated: August 28, 2006, 10:53 PM ET
Associated Press

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Jeff George never doubted he had what it took to be an NFL quarterback, even when he was coaching the run-and-shoot offense last year for his son's fourth grade team.

Clayton's take
Jeff George's signing in Oakland was the talk of the NFL on Monday. And why shouldn't it be? George has stayed in shape and has one of the strongest arms in the league. Art Shell is trying to go Old School Raiders by bringing back the deep pass, and it's certainly an old school move to bring back George.

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The former No. 1 overall pick and strong-armed passer who bounced around the league for more than a decade is back after signing a contract with the Oakland Raiders on Monday, nearly five years after he last threw an NFL pass.

"I always thought I should've been out there -- for whatever reason, I wasn't," George said. "I was out last year. It's tough watching TV and seeing the guys ... and you're not part of that. So I'm just very thankful this organization believed in me and allowed me another opportunity, because I don't know where I'd be without them."

George, the top pick by Indianapolis in 1990, previously played for Oakland in 1997-98, is mostly an insurance policy for the Raiders, who already have Aaron Brooks, Andrew Walter and Marques Tuiasosopo on the roster.

Brooks has played well the past two preseason games and will open the season as the starter, and Walter is viewed as Oakland's quarterback of the future.

Walter missed the last preseason game with a sore right shoulder, but practiced Monday and said he felt fine and should play this week. Shell said the main reason to sign George was to get him familiar with the system in case they needed him later this season.

"It's a precaution for us to bring a guy like that in because you can lose a quarterback," Shell said. "And then when you lose one you have to have somebody ready to go. Even if he doesn't stick with us, there'll be somebody out there that knows a little bit about our system."

George made a few throws in the portion of practice that was open to the media, including two sharp passes deep down the middle of the field.

"I've always been intrigued by the guy, to be honest with you," Shell said. "He still has that zip, he still has that quick release and was very impressive."

George, 38, played with the Colts from 1990-93. He was in Atlanta from 1994-96, then spent two seasons with Oakland and one with Minnesota before joining the Redskins in 2000. He was signed by Seattle as insurance midway through the 2002 season, but didn't play. Chicago signed him late in 2004, but he never played for the Bears either.

He has been throwing regularly with former high school and college teammates near his home in Indianapolis and doesn't feel it will take long to get back in a groove.

"I've always been able to throw the ball, I've been blessed to throw the ball. And I think I'll be able to do that till I'm 60," George said. "Football's football, plays are the same, terminology's a little bit different. But I felt good out there. I felt I really haven't missed a beat."

George, known for his rifle arm and clashes with coaches, has a 46-78 career record as a starter and has never lasted longer than four years with any team. He has thrown for 27,602 yards, with 154 touchdowns and 113 interceptions in his career.

George made it to the postseason twice, losing in the wild-card round with Atlanta in 1995 and taking Minnesota to the NFC championship game in 1999. He teamed with current Raiders receiver Randy Moss on the Vikings that season and Shell said Moss recommended the team bring in George.

George hasn't played since 2001, when he was cut by Washington after two games. In those games, George completed 23 of 42 passes with three interceptions as the Redskins were outscored 67-3.

In his next-to-last game with Washington, he and coach Marty Schottenheimer had an animated sideline discussion after George was removed following a four-turnover performance.

George also had a sideline argument with coach June Jones when he was with Atlanta in 1996, and the team suspended him, then cut him.

"I've said along the way that every situation I have been in has been tough," George said. "You can't be successful learning new offenses year in and year out. ... As a quarterback you just need that chemistry and be together for quite some time. I just haven't had that. For whatever reason, I have always been a quarterback of the teams that were in that transitional phase and rebuilding."

George played well his first season in Oakland, throwing for 3,917 yards and 29 touchdowns in 1997, but the Raiders only went 4-12 that season.

He struggled with a groin injury the following season and started only seven games. He was replaced the following season by Rich Gannon, who was a better fit in coach Jon Gruden's West Coast offense.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press