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Giants Release Simms : Pro football: Team cites salary cap, player’s age and injury. Quarterback says he’s angry, won’t retire.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The new NFL salary cap has felled its first giant.

The New York Giants released Pro Bowl quarterback Phil Simms on Wednesday, citing problems fitting his $2.5-million salary under the $34.6-million salary cap.

The decision sent shock waves through the league, beginning with Simms, who was summoned to Coach Dan Reeves’ office earlier this week. He stormed out after hearing the news.

“I thought he wanted me to autograph some balls for charity or something,” Simms said Wednesday.

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Club co-owner Wellington Mara also disagreed with the decision. “This is a day of overwhelming sadness for me,” Mara said.

The decision leaves the Giants with untested third-year quarterbacks Dave Brown and Kent Graham. They have thrown one touchdown pass combined.

Simms, 38, threw for 184 touchdown passes in his 15-year Giant career, the most in franchise history and one of 15 club passing records he holds.

Fifteen of those touchdown passes were thrown last season when he led the Giants to an 11-5 record and a playoff appearance while being named to the Pro Bowl for the second time in his career.

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He is best remembered for completing a record 88% of his passes in the Super Bowl after the 1986 season, earning most-valuable-player honors while leading the Giants to a 39-20 victory over the Denver Broncos.

Team officials cited his age and a shoulder tear that required surgery in March as factors contributing to the release. Doctors have told the Giants that Simms will not be ready for training camp next month.

“It’s a combination of a lot of things,” said Giant Coach Dan Reeves, carefully adhering to the commissioner’s rule against criticizing the cap. “Contract, age and injury were all taken into consideration, and we weren’t ready to take that gamble right now.”

Critics say this is another example of the salary cap eroding the fabric that has made football the nation’s top spectator sport.

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Leigh Steinberg, agent for several quarterbacks, including Brown, said: “This caps a stunning year of veteran quarterback movement. A salary cap, so far, has meant quarterback instability.”

Simms, who was given the option of retiring, said he asked for his release instead. He did not rule out signing with another team. An obvious possibility exists in New England, where he could play for his former coach, Bill Parcells.

“I’ve decided not to retire,” Simms told reporters. “I’ll make that decision (about another team) in a couple of weeks.”

Even without Simms and recently retired Lawrence Taylor, the Giants figure to be an NFL power.

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“If they thought that not having Phil Simms would keep them from a successful season, they wouldn’t have done this,” said John Wooten, the Philadelphia Eagles’ director of player personnel.


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