Quincy Carter has a new team, but the NFL Players Association plans to continue pursuing its case that charges the Dallas Cowboys with wrongful termination for releasing the quarterback three weeks ago.
Carter signed a one-year contract with the New York Jets on Tuesday and is slated to back up Chad Pennington. But union officials say that has no effect on their contention to NFL special master Stephen B. Burbank that the Cowboys violated the league's collective bargaining agreement by cutting Carter on Aug. 4, and the case will proceed.
The union could seek lost wages and reinstatement for Carter as part of its challenge to Burbank, the University of Pennsylvania law professor who's in charge of resolving disputes arising from the NFL's labor agreement. Any decision by Burbank would be subject to review by U.S.
District Judge David S. Doty, who oversees the league's collective bargaining agreement.
Carter's contractual obligation to the Jets likely will have expired by the time the case is resolved. He's eligible for unrestricted free agency next spring. So if the union is able to convince Burbank that Carter should be reinstated with the Cowboys, the quarterback perhaps would have the option of returning to Dallas, although he would not be obligated to do so.
The collective bargaining agreement prohibits a team from releasing a player because of a failed drug test, and Carter reportedly had a violation of the NFL's substance-abuse policy shortly before he was released. He was the Cowboys' starting quarterback last season, when they reached the playoffs, and was called the leader in the training-camp competition for this season's starting job by Coach Bill Parcells only a few days before he was cut.
Union officials undoubtedly don't want the precedent of Carter's release to go unchallenged, and they want to question Cowboys officials in the trial-like circumstances of a special-master proceeding to explore initial reports that Carter failed a team-administered drug test. The collective bargaining agreement prohibits an individual club from testing its players for drugs, and Cowboys officials told representatives of the league office that they don't test their players.
Carter declined to comment Tuesday on the circumstances surrounding his departure from Dallas and the pending case by the union. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has said he's confident that the club complied with NFL rules in its handling of the matter.
Reviewing Their Notes
Jets General Manager Terry Bradway and Coach Herman Edwards said that, after Carter became available, they dug up their notes from their preparations for the 2001 draft, when Carter was selected by the Cowboys in the second round out of the University of Georgia. They'd met with Carter then and had him work out for offensive coordinator Paul Hackett, they said, and thought he was a good prospect.
"We came away with a very good feeling," Bradway said during Carter's introductory news conference Tuesday at the Jets' training facility in Hempstead, N.Y. "And our opinion hasn't changed. What happened down in Dallas last year was special, taking a team to a playoff and winning 10 games."
The Jets had been in contact with Carter's agent, Eugene Parker, for a couple weeks, Bradway said. Their fans had been clamoring for them to bolster their depth at quarterback behind Pennington, whose backups before Carter's arrival were second-year pro Brooks Bollinger and Canadian Football League alum Ricky Ray.
"We wanted to give our guys a shot," Bradway said. "We still like both of those players and think they have bright futures. But when you can get a starting quarterback in this league . . . we were very fortunate to be able to do that. We explored a lot of different options, none that really made sense."
Said Edwards, who had told New York-area reporters on Monday that it wasn't time to panic about the club's backup-quarterback situation:
"Obviously we had a plan. . . . Obviously the plan was completed [Tuesday]. We got a guy that obviously has won some games in this league. He's been a playoff quarterback and started his first year in this league. He's done some things. He's a hell of a football player. Any time you can upgrade your team with a great football player and a good young man, that's a plus for your football team. I think he's in a good environment. He's surrounded by a lot of character players. I think it's a win-win for everybody."
Now Carter goes to work learning Hackett's version of the West Coast offense, which stresses Carter's weakness, which is his passing accuracy, over his strength, which is improvisation. Carter has started all 32 of the NFL games in which he has played, including one playoff game, but now he must adjust to life as an understudy.
"I've always started since I've been playing football, all my life," he said. "I was the starter in Dallas all three years from opening day. Definitely I would love to be a starter. But at the same time . . . we have a very good quarterback here in Chad Pennington. I know my role and when I can come into a situation where everyone is telling me up front and telling me the truth, I love situations like that. I can accept it."
Bradway said that Carter should have the luxury of picking up the system gradually since he's not being asked to be the starter. "He's a tremendous athlete that can make things happen," Bradway said. "He won't have to use the whole playbook the first week of the season. Quincy is a smart guy. He played in different systems. He picked them up. From that standpoint, we have no concerns. But like any new system, you're not going to be able to pick it all up in one week."
Carter said he was "shocked" by his ouster in Dallas, but did not criticize the Cowboys.
"In this game, we learn about surprises," he said. "There are a lot of them. I've definitely got to move on from here. I know that things happen and you've just got to move on. . . . I'm looking forward to being a Jet and helping this team win football games however I can. I'm just so excited to have a job right now."
Carter declined to fault the Cowboys for signing Vinny Testaverde to compete with him for the starting job in camp, or other teams for being wary of signing him because of the circumstances surrounding his departure from Dallas. Carter said he received interest from other clubs but declined to identify them. The Minnesota Vikings are thought to be among the teams that considered signing Carter, 26.
"People have to make decisions on their football team, and I understand that," Carter said. "You've got to earn respect. They're the ones who are telling me if I earned their respect or not. It's not my job to go mouthing off whether I've earned their respect, so I'll let someone else do the talking. . . . People have go down and do their own investigations on things. My character has never been questioned by anybody . . . the kind of person I am and the kind of work ethic that I put in to be the kind of player that I want to be eventually. I couldn't worry about that. I could only go on and continue to work out [after he was released] and control what I could control."
Carter's contract with the Jets pays him a salary of about $500,000 and contains incentives that could push his income significantly higher if he gets extensive playing time.
Coughlin Picks Warner
New York Giants Coach Tom Coughlin today named Kurt Warner his starter for Friday's preseason game against the Jets, ahead of Eli Manning. It was Warner's turn to start in Coughlin's preseason rotation, and Coughlin had warned in the days leading up to his announcement that Friday's starter wouldn't necessarily be the starter for the Sept. 12 regular-season opener at Philadelphia. Warner and Manning are to split time with the starting offense Friday. Still, the decision comes as a bit of a surprise. Manning has appeared to be leading Warner in the Giants' quarterback derby, and NFL teams usually give their starters the most work in the third game of the preseason. . . .
San Diego Chargers Coach Marty Schottenheimer is leaving open the possibility that rookie quarterback Philip Rivers could play in Friday's preseason game against Seattle. Rivers will have participated in only five training-camp practices by then. He signed a six-year, $40.5 million contract Tuesday. San Diego released quarterback Joe Germaine to clear a roster spot for Rivers. . . . Chargers tailback LaDainian Tomlinson is to make his first preseason appearance Friday. . . .
Holdout wide receiver Keenan McCardell hasn't missed any opportunities of late to publicly assail the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But Buccaneers Coach Jon Gruden told reporters Tuesday that McCardell hasn't burned any bridges and would be welcomed back eagerly. "No, he has plenty of bridges left in Tampa," Gruden said. "We've got the Howard Frankland Bridge. We've got all kinds of bridges. All bridges are in operation here, man. We'd love to have him back.'' . . . Chris Simms is scheduled to be the Buccaneers' No. 2 quarterback Saturday against Miami. The second-year pro is vying with Brian Griese for the second spot behind starter Brad Johnson. . . .
Robert Gallery, the second overall selection in the draft, was back on the practice field with the Oakland Raiders on Tuesday after being sidelined for a week by an elbow injury. But he worked at left guard instead of his usual position, left tackle. Coach Norv Turner told reporters that he foresees Barry Sims remaining the Raiders' starting left tackle to open the season. Gallery practiced with the second-team offense at guard but could overtake Frank Middleton for the starting left guard job to open the season if he remains at the spot, although Turner and the Raiders continue to say that Gallery's long-term future is at left tackle. . . .
The Carolina Panthers aided their beat-up offensive line by trading a conditional 2005 draft pick to the Cowboys on Tuesday for Javiar Collins, who had fallen behind Torrin Tucker and rookie Jacob Rogers in the competition for Dallas's starting right tackle job. . . .
Parcells says he has no immediate plans to add another veteran quarterback, and seems to be leaning toward having rookie Drew Henson begin the season as Testaverde's primary backup.
Losman Out 2-3 Months
Buffalo Bills quarterback J.P. Losman, the 22nd overall choice in the draft, broke his left fibula Tuesday and likely will be sidelined two to three months. The injury is similar to the one that caused Atlanta quarterback Michael Vick to miss most of last season.
Losman was hurt when he collided with veteran cornerback Troy Vincent while scrambling during a drill. Losman's injury leaves Travis Brown backing up Bills starter Drew Bledsoe. Losman -- the fourth quarterback drafted in April after Manning, Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger -- had played well in Buffalo's two preseason games, completing nine of 11 passes for 78 yards and running for 80 yards on seven carries.
This will be the second straight year that the Bills will be without a first-round draft pick for most of the season. They chose tailback Willis McGahee in the 2003 draft, knowing he'd miss all of last season because of the severe knee injury he suffered in his final game for the University of Miami. . . .
Dolphins first-round pick Vernon Carey is struggling and likely will begin the season as a backup. He is behind John St. Clair at right tackle on Miami's depth chart and failed to break into the starting lineup when he temporarily was shifted to right guard. . . . The Dolphins claimed speedy wide receiver Bryan Gilmore, released by Arizona, off waivers. . . .
St. Louis Rams right tackle Kyle Turley is considering undergoing further surgery for a disk problem in his back. He has called the injury career-threatening and it appears increasingly likely that he will miss the entire season even if he isn't forced to retire. . . . The Giants signed offensive lineman Brandon Winey, who was released recently by the Washington Redskins but played relatively well last season as a fill-in starter at left tackle for three games when Chris Samuels was hurt. . . . Green Bay agreed today to a one-year, $685,000 contract with free agent defensive end Kenny Holmes. The deal includes a $25,000 signing bonus. Holmes has been bothered by knee problems but managed 51/2 sacks in nine games for the Giants last season. . . . The Cowboys signed free agent defensive tackle Chad Eaton, formerly of Seattle, to a one-year, $660,000 contract. . . . The Giants signed veteran guard Solomon Page, who was released by Detroit on Monday.