Curt Warner, the once-dominant running back signed by the Rams as a Plan B free agent in the off-season, was released Tuesday, probably signaling both the end of his eight-year NFL career and the beginning of Marcus Dupree’s.
Warner, 29, started the first three games of the season for the Rams but never regained the spark of his years with the Seattle Seahawks and was soon brushed aside by the emergence of Cleveland Gary as the Rams’ main runner.
After his last game as a starter, Sept. 23 against the Philadelphia Eagles, Warner carried the ball only 11 times. Capping a career in which he gained 6,844 yards, Warner this season carried the ball 49 times for 139 yards, a 2.8-yard average. His longest run was nine yards.
For a player who signed for a salary of $700,000 this season, it was not enough.
“We’re at a point where we just felt like we had to go with other people in terms of getting playing time,” Ram Coach John Robinson said Tuesday.
“He gave it a great effort in terms of trying to make the transition and trying to re-establish his career, but for a number of reasons, things just seemed to go out of whack with our early-season disappointment, and things just didn’t work out.”
Neither Warner nor his agent, Marvin Demoff, could be reached for comment. Warner apparently was unhappy with the decision and didn’t think he was given a fair shot at keeping the tailback job.
Warner spent his first seven seasons with the Seahawks before signing with the Rams when Seattle left him unprotected in the Plan B free-agency period. He gained more than 1,000 yards four times, led the AFC twice, and made the Pro Bowl three times.
“It’s disappointing because I think he’s a good guy and is a good man and gave it everything he had,” Robinson said. “And you hate to be part of the end of a great player. And he may go on--but I think that part is disappointing. It would’ve been nice to have it come out the way he and I wanted it to.”
Did Warner’s salary, one of the highest on the team, affect the decision to release him?
“Sure,” Robinson said.
The move immediately put Gaston Green into the position of main backup and gives Dupree both a roster spot and the chance for some playing time.
“Gaston was thrust into the background (by Gary and Warner), and this will give him a shot again now,” Robinson said. “And also we have to look ahead to the future with Marcus Dupree.”
Dupree, the former high school and college star trying to make a comeback after a five-year layoff because of a knee injury, probably will be activated later this week.
In other roster action, cornerback Mickey Sutton was placed on injured reserve after injuring his left knee in Sunday’s 17-13 victory over the Houston Oilers at Anaheim Stadium. Surgery, which was scheduled for Tuesday, was pushed back to Friday. The Rams also activated cornerback Clifford Hicks, who was on injured reserve all season with a knee injury.
The Rams are considering re-signing newly converted wide receiver Alfred Jackson, who was a cornerback just a month ago.