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Marinovich Project Ends, Raiders Cut Quarterback : Pro football: Team says it was off-field behavior that was determining factor. Lofton also waived.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Avid surfer Todd Marinovich was swept off the Raider roster Monday by an unexpected waive.

Marinovich, the team’s starting quarterback for seven games last season, and pass catcher James Lofton, the NFL career leader in receiving yardage, were the biggest names among the 13 cut from their roster Monday to reach the allowable limit of 47.

Also cut were kicker Jeff Jaeger, punter Jeff Gossett, defensive lineman Willie Broughton, running back Napoleon McCallum, offensive lineman Todd Peat, defensive back Dan Land and linebacker David Fulcher.

Put on waivers were Marinovich, linebacker Keith Traylor, receiver Olanda Truitt, offensive lineman Tom Roth and tight end John Duff.

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Players with at least four years’ experience are put on the termination list, making them automatic free agents. Players without four years’ experience are put on the waiver list, meaning they can be claimed by other clubs within 24 hours.

The Raiders can re-sign six players today and designate five others, who qualify, for their practice squad.

Coach Art Shell indicated Monday that Marinovich, Lofton and Fulcher won’t be back.

For Marinovich, who was unavailable for comment, the cut was the sharpest.

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After a sometimes brilliant, often controversial, never consistent career at USC, he was made a first-round draft choice by the Raiders just two years ago.

A year ago, he was made the starting quarterback, replacing Jay Schroeder after the Raiders lost their first two games.

But after throwing three interceptions in slightly more than a quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles, Marinovich was benched, never to be seen on the field again in a regular-season game.

He soon found himself behind Vince Evans as the third quarterback.

Raider officials said it was Marinovich’s erratic behavior off the field rather than on it that was the determining factor.

Before he was drafted by the Raiders, Marinovich was charged with a misdemeanor for possession of cocaine and marijuana. He was cleared after serving in a one-year diversion program for first-time offenders.

There were rumors that Marinovich had additional drug problems after joining the Raiders, charges he vehemently denied. But Raider officials openly complained about Marinovich’s immaturity.

“We just couldn’t get done what needed to be done,” Shell said. “I just want to wish him the best of luck.”

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Steve Ortmayer, the Raiders’ director of football operations, said that the Marinovich “chapter in our history is now over. We have a history of succeeding (with cases like that of Marinovich), but this time we didn’t. The National Football League is a fast and unforgiving business. We felt it was time to go in a new direction.”

That direction became obvious when the Raiders signed free-agent quarterback Jeff Hostetler and drafted Billy Joe Hobert.

The team brought back Lofton at 37 after he had spent the last four seasons with the Buffalo Bills, the last three in the Super Bowl. Lofton had been with the Raiders in 1987 and ’88.

But this time around, there was too much competition from young receivers such as Alexander Wright, two-time winner of the NFL’s Fastest Man race, James Jett, a former Olympic gold-medal runner, and Charles Jordan, another young speedster.

It is believed to have come down to Lofton and another veteran, Willie Gault.

“I’ve been a starter in this league for 15 years in a row and now I find myself out of a job,” Lofton said.

“It’s probably like a lot of people in the South Bay who have been successful at something. Now, all of a sudden, you’re displaced.

“I will continue to work out and keep up my training regimen. I will be ready when someone calls.”

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