Chargers to Release Flannigan

TIMES STAFF WRITER

J.J. Flannigan, the Chargers' eighth-round draft choice from Colorado, has asked for and will receive his release from the team today.

General Manager Bobby Beathard said Monday he would grant Flannigan's request because it has become clear Flannigan does not figure in the team's plans.

Flannigan, who was switched to wide receiver from running back two weeks ago, was disappointed because he did not play in either of the team's two scrimmages or their exhibition opener Saturday, a 28-16 victory over the Dallas Cowboys.

"I just want to get a chance to play," Flannigan said. "If I get a chance to play, I can make things happen."

Flannigan, 5-feet-10 and 194 pounds, was drafted as a running back but was switched to wide receiver two weeks ago after injuries to Wayne Walker and Troy Johnson. But the move came too late to do him much good.

"He was behind; he struggled," Coach Dan Henning said. "He is frustrated and disappointed. He wants to be a back, but we didn't feel like he was ready to do that. We wish him the best because he has been down and frustrated for the last week or so."

Beathard said the Chargers were interested in Flannigan because of his speed, but that his ability as a receiver was limited.

"The problem J.J. had as a wide receiver was his hands," Beathard said. "Sometimes that's a problem.

"He is a great kid. I would like to see him get a place in the league or the Canadian league. Maybe there is a place for him somewhere."

Flannigan's agent, Jack Mills of Boulder, Colo., said he would try to find another team for Flannigan but so far no teams have expressed an interest.

Flannigan, a Parade All-American at Pomona High School, had an impressive career at Colorado, rushing for 1,187 yards as a senior and tying a 54-year-old school record by scoring 18 touchdowns.

"You have got an athlete who has all-around athletic ability and they come in and they don't fit into a particular spot," Henning said. "Sometimes you are fortunate. But more than not they don't work because it is a game of specialists."

Flannigan will be the second of the Chargers' 17 draft choices to be released. The first was cornerback Keith Collins, a seventh-round pick from Appalachian State.

The release of Flannigan will put the Chargers one player under the NFL limit of 80 signed players.

Beathard said he has not talked with the agent for first-round draft choice Junior Seau in a week and repeated his position that there is no point in renewing talks until Seau significantly reduces his contract demands.

Seau has asked for a four-year contract averaging $1.35 million per year and the team has countered with a five-year deal averaging about $850,000 per year, according to his agent, Steve Feldman of Newport Beach.

"If they are just going to come down another $100,000 a year, they might as well not bring it down," Beathard said.

Today will mark the 26th day of Seau's holdout.

Beathard reported some potential progress in talks with linebacker Leslie O'Neal, the team's only other contract holdout. He said he has a meeting scheduled with O'Neal today and plans to speak Wednesday with O'Neal's agent, Marvin Demoff of Los Angeles.

"We would really like to get him in here this week," Beathard said.

Charger Notes

Outside linebacker Billy Ray Smith (bruised thigh) practiced in the morning Monday, but sat out the afternoon workout with the Dallas Cowboys. Cornerback Gill Byrd (fluid on knee) practiced in both sessions. Both were injured slightly in the exhibition opener Saturday against the Cowboys. The teams will practice on separate fields at UC San Diego in the morning and combine in the afternoon for a joint workout. . . . Offensive guard Mike Simmonds, a Plan B free agent from Tampa Bay, practiced for the first time since having arthroscopic knee surgery July 26. Inside linebacker Cedric Figaro, who missed Saturday's game with a sore ankle, the result of a practice fight Thursday with tight end Andy Parker, returned to practice. . . . Rookie quarterback John Friesz, who was in for only the final two plays against the Cowboys Saturday, will get a longer look against the Rams Saturday night at Anaheim Stadium, Coach Dan Henning said.

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