Cowboys Waive Aikman

ByJaime Aron

I R V I N G, Texas, March 7, 2001 -- The Dallas Cowboys waived Troy Aikman today, no longer convinced that the quarterback who led them tothree Super Bowl titles is healthy enough to be their starter.

"We will wait and see if he clears waivers and proceed fromthere," agent Leigh Steinberg told The Associated Press, decliningfurther comment.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones probably would have preferred to seethe 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 $7million bonus and extend his contract through 2007. He will stilltake up $10 million of Dallas' $67.4 million salary cap thisseason.

As much as Jones might have wanted to keep the first player heever drafted, the owner apparently decided the Cowboys couldn'tprepare for the 2001 season with such a fragile, expensivequarterback.

Aikman, a six-time Pro Bowler who holds practically all theDallas passing records, sustained two concussions in 11 games lastseason and twice needed epidural injections to relieve back pain.

The last play of his career in Dallas ended in a concussion inthe first quarter of a Dec. 10 victory over Washington. With theCowboys deep in Redskins territory, Aikman rolled out to his rightand was slammed to the turf on a crushing, leaping tackle bylinebacker LaVar Arrington.

Other teams might be scared off because of Aikman's injuryproblems, which could then prompt him to retire.

Aikman Still Wants To Play

One possible landing spot is San Diego, where close friend NorvTurner is the offensive coordinator. The Chargers also could useAikman to groom Michael Vick, should they make him the first pickin the upcoming draft. San Diego's starting job is open becauseRyan Leaf was released last week.

Aikman has said he still wants to play and believes he can at ahigh level. As for the health risks; tests done before last seasonshowed no long term damage from his previous concussions. The factthat his wife is pregnant with their first child apparently hasn'tadded to his fear of severe injury.

Once the highest-paid player in NFL history, Aikman is comingoff his worst season since the Cowboys went 1-15 his rookie year.

He was the lowest-rated starting quarterback in the NFC andthrew a career-worst five interceptions against the New YorkGiants. Aikman also missed five games with injuries and was knockedout of three more, all in the first quarter.

Yet Aikman was intrigued about coming back in 2001 in partbecause he wanted a full season of throwing to speedsters JoeyGalloway and Raghib Ismail. Galloway suffered a season-ending kneeinjury in last year's opener, and Ismail was later lost to a kneeinjury.

Was Jerry Jones’s First Pick

Aikman came to Dallas in 1989 as the top overall choice in thedraft and the team's first pick under Jones and coach JimmyJohnson. He was immediately labeled the franchise's savior and,sure enough, helped the Cowboys once again become the NFL's mostloved and most loathed team.

Aikman was the triggerman in an offense that also featuredrunning back Emmitt Smith and receiver Michael Irvin.

Known as the Triplets, the trio propelled Dallas to the top ofthe NFL three seasons after it was on the bottom. The Cowboys wonan unprecedented three Super Bowls in four years, includingconsecutive titles in 1992-93.

Aikman was the MVP of the first one, a 52-17 victory overBuffalo. He later joined Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw as the onlyquarterbacks with at least three Super Bowl victories.

Records and statistics were incidental to Aikman, who liked tojoke 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 acomplaint.

Coaches loved his precise, fundamental style, and he was at hisbest when the Cowboys were loaded with young players reaching theirprime. As he and the team aged and rough times hit, some fansgrumbled that Aikman was too rigid and lacked the playmakingability of someone like Brett Favre.

Since Dallas' last Super Bowl championship, the Cowboys are39-41 in the regular season and 1-3 in the playoffs. They were 5-11last season.

Aikman understood the marketing opportunities and mediaobligations that went along with being the starting quarterback ofthe Cowboys.

He also took advantage of his status to do charity work, mostlythrough his Troy Aikman Foundation, which helps children'shospitals. In 1997, he was named the NFL Man of the Year.

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