The Dallas Cowboys waived Troy Aikman today, no longer convinced that the quarterback who led them to three Super Bowl titles is healthy enough to be their starter.
"We will wait and see if he clears waivers and proceed from there," agent Leigh Steinberg told The Associated Press, declining further comment.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones probably would have preferred to see the 34-year-old Aikman retire after 12 seasons — and 10 concussions — but his desire to keep playing left the team with little choice.
Quarterback Is Fragile, Expensive
Jones had to make the move by Thursday or else pay Aikman a $7 million bonus and extend his contract through 2007. He will still take up $10 million of Dallas' $67.4 million salary cap this season.
As much as Jones might have wanted to keep the first player he ever drafted, the owner apparently decided the Cowboys couldn't prepare for the 2001 season with such a fragile, expensive quarterback.
Aikman, a six-time Pro Bowler who holds practically all the Dallas passing records, sustained two concussions in 11 games last season and twice needed epidural injections to relieve back pain.
The last play of his career in Dallas ended in a concussion in the first quarter of a Dec. 10 victory over Washington. With the Cowboys deep in Redskins territory, Aikman rolled out to his right and was slammed to the turf on a crushing, leaping tackle by linebacker LaVar Arrington.
Other teams might be scared off because of Aikman's injury problems, which could then prompt him to retire.
Aikman Still Wants To Play
One possible landing spot is San Diego, where close friend Norv Turner is the offensive coordinator. The Chargers also could use Aikman to groom Michael Vick, should they make him the first pick in the upcoming draft. San Diego's starting job is open because Ryan Leaf was released last week.
Aikman has said he still wants to play and believes he can at a high level. As for the health risks; tests done before last season showed no long term damage from his previous concussions. The fact that his wife is pregnant with their first child apparently hasn't added to his fear of severe injury.
Once the highest-paid player in NFL history, Aikman is coming off his worst season since the Cowboys went 1-15 his rookie year.
He was the lowest-rated starting quarterback in the NFC and threw a career-worst five interceptions against the New York Giants. Aikman also missed five games with injuries and was knocked out of three more, all in the first quarter.
Yet Aikman was intrigued about coming back in 2001 in part because he wanted a full season of throwing to speedsters Joey Galloway and Raghib Ismail. Galloway suffered a season-ending knee injury in last year's opener, and Ismail was later lost to a knee injury.
Was Jerry Jones’s First Pick
Aikman came to Dallas in 1989 as the top overall choice in the draft and the team's first pick under Jones and coach Jimmy Johnson. He was immediately labeled the franchise's savior and, sure enough, helped the Cowboys once again become the NFL's most loved and most loathed team.
Aikman was the triggerman in an offense that also featured running back Emmitt Smith and receiver Michael Irvin.
Known as the Triplets, the trio propelled Dallas to the top of the NFL three seasons after it was on the bottom. The Cowboys won an unprecedented three Super Bowls in four years, including consecutive titles in 1992-93.
Aikman was the MVP of the first one, a 52-17 victory over Buffalo. He later joined Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw as the only quarterbacks with at least three Super Bowl victories.
Records and statistics were incidental to Aikman, who liked to joke about being a horrible fantasy football quarterback.
Still, his numbers are impressive: 2,898-of-4,715 (61.5 percent) for 32,942 yards, 165 touchdowns and 141 interceptions.
A strong-armed, accurate passer, Aikman was often considered a "Robo-QB," which was mostly a compliment but sometimes a complaint.
Coaches loved his precise, fundamental style, and he was at his best when the Cowboys were loaded with young players reaching their prime. As he and the team aged and rough times hit, some fans grumbled that Aikman was too rigid and lacked the playmaking ability of someone like Brett Favre.
Since Dallas' last Super Bowl championship, the Cowboys are 39-41 in the regular season and 1-3 in the playoffs. They were 5-11 last season.
Aikman understood the marketing opportunities and media obligations that went along with being the starting quarterback of the Cowboys.
He also took advantage of his status to do charity work, mostly through his Troy Aikman Foundation, which helps children's hospitals. In 1997, he was named the NFL Man of the Year.