Toni Linhart, the Colt kicker given a $10,000 raise by owner Robert Irsay after he missed three short field-goal attempts in Baltimore's 13-10 loss to Cleveland on Sunday, was placed on waivers yesterday.
Linhart, reached at his home in Timonium, said he was called into Colt Coach Ted Marchibroda's office at 1:05 p.m. and told he had been waived to make room for former Maryland placekicker Steve Mike Mayer.
"I don't understand the whole thing," said Linhart,37, a Colt since 1974. "I came in this morning and I saw Ted in the hall. He smiled and said, 'Hi,' I went to the team meeting and everything seemed fine.
"Then, after the meeting, Dick Bielski (receivers coach) told me Ted wanted to see me in his office. I went up there and he said he was putting me on waivers to make room for someone else.
"I didn't ask why. I was too surprised. I just wished him luck and left. It all took about two minutes. I didn't even get a chance to wish my teammates luck in Pittsburg Sunday."
Irsay, who had been in Colombia, South America, the last three days, sounded shocked when he heard the news from a reporter.
"Are you telling me the truth?" he asked. "Well, look, I tried to fight Ted Marchibroda in the past and when I did Bert Jones got the whole team behind him (Marchibroda) and I couldn't win. So I'm not going to fight Ted -- for now. He's my coach right now."
Asked three times if he were indicating that Marchibroda's job might be in jeopardy, Irsay answered each time: "What? I can't hear you?"
"Look," Irsay continued, "I gave the little guy the raise because I wanted him on my side. I thought he could help the team. Apparently, Ted and Bert don't want him on their side. I can't fight Ted and Bert, they're too powerful. Of course, maybe they're not so powerful anymore. What do you think?"
Marchibroda was "in a meeting" each time he was called for a comment, according to a Colt spokesman.
After Linhart's disastrous day Sunday, Irsay visited the Colt locker room and told the kicker, a graduate of a technical university in Austria: "Linhart, I give you a $10,000 raise, starting today -- just for the effort." Irsay then told visitors to the locker room, "He'll be the best kicker from now on."
Perhaps for another team.
"I don't know what I'm going to do right now," Linhart said. "I'm going to go in tomorrow to talk to Ted again because it all happened so fast, and to say goodbue to the other guys. I'm going to miss them. We've worked hard together."
Sunday's loss dropped the Colts' record to 0-3. Linhart said that although he felt "extremely let down," he had no hard feelings.
"This is football; this is what I chose," he said. "Of course it hurts, but it happens to everybody sometime. This has been an extremely hectic week.
"Monday, the coaches just told me to keep working, that things would get better. I thought I was kicking well in practice. I felt good. My leg felt strong. I had an idea when I went in today that such a thing would happen to me."
As a vested player (seven-year veteran), Linhart will receive half of his pay for 1979 and half of the $10,000 raise, according to the Colts. Irsay said he would take no action contrary to Marchibroda's.
"I feel bad about it but I had nothing to do with it," Isray said. "It was his decision, not mine."
Isray gave Marchibroda full control over personnel in 1976 after the owner stormed into the locker room following an exhitibion loss and berated the coach and his players. When Marchibroda threatened to quit because of front-office interference, the players, led by Bert Jones, sided with him and Marchibroda ended up with control of personnel decisions.
Linhart began his NFL career with New Orleans in 1972 and was released by the Saints in 1973. Picked up by the Colts in 1974, he kicked the gamewinning field goal in overtime against Miami the following season to put the Colts into the playoffs.
In 1976 and 1977, he was on the AFC Pro Bowl team. He led the league in scoring in 1976 with 109 points, a record for a Colt kicker.
He leaves as the fourth-leading scorer in Baltimore history with 394 points. Two weeks ago, against Tampa Bay, he missed an extra point in a game the Colts eventually lost in overtime.
"It's been an unbelievable four days," said Linhart. "I'm sure I'll find a job. I can still kick in the NFL another few years. I hope this isn't the way it ends for me."