Chargers : Veterans Leonard, Flick, Nelson Waived : Eighteen Players Cut; Roster to Be Reduced From 67 to 60 by Tuesday

It looked like a meeting for the offensive line, as linemen gathered in the parking lot outside the Chargers' training facility at UC San Diego Saturday.

Instead, it was a farewell to offensive lineman Jim Leonard, who had learned earlier in the day that he was one of 18 players cut from the team Saturday.

Leonard, 29, a veteran in his sixth year, was well liked by his teammates and was somewhat of a surprise to be cut.

"It's emotionally hard to cut somebody, and that's compounded when you are a friend and played with that guy," said Ed White, offensive line coach. "It's a very competitive game, and that's the way it goes. What it says is that we are stronger this year."

Leonard started five games for the Chargers last season to fill gaps created by injuries.

Among the other notable cuts Saturday were quarterback Tom Flick, linebacker and special teams player Derrie Nelson and strong safety John Sullivan.

The afternoon was somber, as players shook hands, hugged and said goodby.

Across the parking lot from Leonard, Sullivan was packing his truck for the eight-hour drive home to San Francisco.

Sullivan, who started two of the Chargers' three exhibition games, said he "felt something in the air" in recent days.

"It happens every day this time each year," Sullivan, 25, said of being cut.

Sullivan, who plans to enroll in law school, said his two exhibition starts were a sign that he was being closely watched.

"I knew I was being critically evaluated," said Sullivan, who was picked up off waivers from Green Bay last season. "I knew what was going on, but I couldn't put that kind of pressure on myself."

Flick, who started three games last season, including a 9-3 victory over Denver, said he "is still pretty raw as a player."

"The younger guys (Rick Neuheisel and Mark Vlasic) got some snaps this season (in practice)," said Flick, who battled his way onto the team last season as the third quarterback behind Dan Fouts and Mark Herrmann. "I just didn't get the snaps. . . . As it turned out, I was the odd man out."

Flick, who turned 29 today, said he is unsure whether another team will sign him.

"I have had some experience in this league without much physical damage," he said. "If a future in football presents itself, we'll see."

Nelson, who was twice voted special teams player of the year by his teammates, said he was happy to be with the Chargers for five seasons. Nelson, who will operate his graffiti removal service in San Diego, appeared upbeat Saturday.

"(Football is) a business and I run my own business, so I know what it's like," said Nelson, 29. "When you decide somebody doesn't fit in, that's it.

"I guess now, Super Bowl tickets will cost me a lot more."

Coach Al Saunders said he will reduce the remaining roster of 67 players to 60 by Tuesday.

The Chargers have made their best offer to unsigned linebacker Thomas Benson, Steve Ortmayer, the Chargers' director of football operations, said Saturday.

"If we weren't able to get an agreement by (Saturday), our staff feels that he is going to have a hard time getting ready for the opening game," Ortmayer said. "Consequently, we felt that if his value is going to diminish to us relative to opening the season, we should diminish our offer accordingly."

Ortmayer met with Benson and his agent, Steve Feldman, Saturday, but said "a significant difference" remains between the two parties.

"The entire difference is money," Ortmayer said. "We were willing to do the length of the contract any way they wanted to do it."

Ortmayer said it is up to Feldman, who had checked out of his San Diego hotel Saturday evening, to initiate further discussion.

Charger Notes Other players waived Saturday by the Chargers included: strong safety Anthony Anderson, linebackers Tim Lucas, Ron Brown and Fred Jones; defensive ends Tony Simmons and Blaise Winter; offensive linemen John Stadnik and David Diaz-Infante; running back Todd Spencer; quarterback Mike Moroski; kicker Jeff Gaffney, and wide receivers Tag Rome, Clarence Collins and Eric Mullins.

Four players remain on the injured reserve list: linebacker Joe Mauntel (knee), defensive end Mack Moore (knee), offensive tackle Joe MacEsker (elbow) and free safety Allan Durden (hamstring).

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