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Leinart Will Cut His Ties to Steinberg

Times Staff Writer

Matt Leinart’s road to the NFL took an unexpected detour Tuesday when it was confirmed that the USC quarterback will end his fledgling relationship with Newport Beach-based player agent Leigh Steinberg -- presumably to clear the way for signing with another agent early next week.

Word that Leinart intends to part company with Steinberg after only three months surfaced Monday night on ESPN.com.

On Tuesday, Steinberg confirmed that he had been served with the termination notice -- an unusual step for a player to take only weeks before the NFL draft, which will take place April 29.

The latest development in Leinart’s highly publicized transition from college star to NFL rookie sparked speculation that he will sign next week with Tom Condon, a longtime player agent who last week moved from sports marketing giant IMG to Beverly Hills-based Creative Artists Agency.

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Speculation focused on Condon and CAA because the talent agency in January signed as Leinart’s representative in off-the-field business dealings. Shortly after that, Leinart selected Steinberg to represent his interests in the upcoming NFL draft.

A spokesman for Leinart, who is expected to be one of the first players picked in the draft, said an announcement would come after the weekend. A spokesman for CAA declined to comment on the situation.

Leinart is the second former USC player to drop Steinberg in recent weeks. Offensive tackle Winston Justice, projected to be a top-10 pick in the draft, also reportedly has ended his relationship with the agent.

As of Tuesday, Steinberg had not spoken to Leinart or anyone connected to him.

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“Everything has seemed to be really happy and upbeat,” Steinberg said, “so I’m really at a loss for words. It has seemed to be such a positive relationship.”

Times staff writer Gary Klein contributed to this report.


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