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Rams Release Henley, Might Re-sign Him : Pro football: Team would consider adding cornerback later should his bail restrictions lessen. Running back Gary also let go along with four others.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Less than a month after inviting controversy with the signing of indicted cornerback Darryl Henley, the Rams concluded Sunday they would be better off without him--for now.

The Rams released Henley on the mandatory cut to 53 players along with running back Cleveland Gary and four others, but behind the scenes the team indicated it might reconsider adding him to the roster should his bail restrictions become less stringent.

The team said it would not be surprised if Henley petitioned the court for leniency, but also expressed doubt that changes would be granted.

“It’s a big blow,” Henley said. “I find it hard to believe it had anything to do with my performance on the field.

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“Hopefully, we’re not finished talking about this yet.”

Henley, who started 41 games for the Rams, suffered a hamstring injury in practice last week. If healthy, he would be considered one of the team’s top cornerbacks.

“It was a personnel decision basically,” Coach Chuck Knox said. “We had some guys in the secondary that could help us on special teams and Darryl missed a lot of training camp. That was the basic reason.”

That was the reason given publicly, but it’s known team officials felt the new bail restrictions imposed upon Henley presented an intolerable distraction.

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U.S. District Court Judge Gary L. Taylor, reacting to Henley’s request to travel to Ram games on the road, increased his bail from $200,000 to $1 million, and ordered a probation officer to be at Henley’s side at all times.

Taylor ruled that Henley’s $1-million bail could be raised by a “responsible” third party, such as the Rams. The team informed Henley that it probably would be willing to put up the money, but it did not like the idea of having a probation officer on the team flight, in the team hotel and in the locker room.

“I don’t want to talk about the other thing,” Knox said when asked if potential distractions had prompted Henley’s release.

Knox spoke with Henley on Saturday and told him he intended to cut him, but waited to make it official Sunday in the event there was any possibility of trading him.

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“The coach has the final say on the selection of the team,” said John Shaw, Ram president. “He made the final decision on it. We support what he does.”

Safety Anthony Newman, who had expressed enthusiasm upon Henley’s return, was surprised to learn the team had released him.

“From a friend’s standpoint, I’m going to miss him,” Newman said. “I know he’s a player, but with all the stuff going on, coaches and management felt we needed to move on.”

Henley was the team’s starting cornerback last year before running into legal trouble. He took a leave of absence, and then was indicted along with a former Ram cheerleader and three others as participants in an alleged conspiracy to transfer two shipments of cocaine from his Brea home to locations in Atlanta and Memphis.

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The cheerleader, Tracy Ann Donaho, has pleaded guilty and is expected to testify against Henley and the other defendants. Henley has maintained his innocence, and is scheduled to go to trial in January.

In addition to Henley, the Rams released Gary, starting left guard Bill Schultz, safety Deral Boykin, defensive tackle Marc Boutte and tight end Rickey Brady.

Dallas Coach Barry Switzer expressed interest in Gary, who ran for 1,125 yards two years ago, as a backup to Emmitt Smith.

Gary, who was scheduled to earn $500,000, became a victim, in part, of economics.

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“The fact that we could have two backs there (for the same money) was a factor,” said Knox, who chose to keep Howard Griffith and rookie James Bostic to back up Jerome Bettis.

Gary said he was bewildered by the team’s action, but declined to criticize the Rams.

“I’m not bitter with anybody,” said Gary, who didn’t count out the possibility of playing with the Raiders. “I want to win. I think I can make an impact somewhere.”

While Gary was surprised at being released, Schultz was stunned. Two weeks ago the Rams made Schultz their starting left guard.

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“I was locked in, things were going good, and I rented a condo,” Schultz said. “Paid five months up front--that’s $10,000 gone. One of the stipulations was that it was non-refundable.

“I just never thought. . . .”

The Rams greeted Schultz on Sunday morning with news that Knox wanted to see him.

“I thought it was a joke and laughed,” Schultz said. “They said, ‘Bill, it’s no joke.’ ”

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