The Tennessee Titans released Eddie George, their career rushing leader yesterday, ending a long contract stalemate with the veteran tailback.

George, who turns 31 in September, will sort through a list of suitors that could include Dallas, Philadelphia, Tampa Bay, Oakland and Denver. The Titans could sign Antowain Smith, New England's leading rusher in each of the past three seasons and a free agent since the Patriots declined to exercise an option in his contract in February. He would replace George and split carries with second-year pro Chris Brown.

"The system makes it difficult," Titans General Manager Floyd Reese said at a news conference: " . . . It's sad in a situation like this when everyone agrees on one point: Eddie should be a Titan. . . . But we couldn't get it done for a number of reasons."

George and his agent, Lamont Smith, had attempted to renegotiate his contract since March. He was slated to earn a salary of $4.25 million this season and count $7.3 million against the Titans' salary cap.

Antowain Smith, 32, visited the Titans on Tuesday. He ran for 2,781 yards in three seasons in New England and helped the Patriots to two Super Bowl titles, but the defending champions let him go to avoid paying him a $2.4 million salary this season and replaced him by obtaining Corey Dillon in an April trade with Cincinnati.. . .

Donald Samuel, the attorney for Ravens' running back Jamal Lewis, told the Associated Press his client's trial on federal drug conspiracy charges could slip into Baltimore's regular season or beyond. Samuel says it appears unlikely that Lewis will go on trial in August, the original target date. Samuel says he expects to ask the judge, either in writing or during a pretrial conference, to delay the trial until after the season.

-- Mark Maske