Throwing in the towel
Recently released QB Grbac opts for retirementPosted: Monday March 04, 2002 4:18 PM
Updated: Monday March 04, 2002 5:34 PM
By Don Banks, Sports Illustrated
Still reeling from his surprising termination in Baltimore, and unwilling to start over with another team, quarterback Elvis Grbac has decided to end his nine-year NFL career, his agent confirmed Monday.
Grbac, released Friday by the Ravens after he refused to accept a $5 million pay cut, could have signed with Cincinnati on Saturday night but broke off talks because he was unsure about the level of his commitment to football.While agent Jim Steiner refused to rule out the chance Grbac, 31, could change his mind and want to continue his career, he downplayed the possibility and said "this was not a decision made just in one afternoon. There had been some thought about this."
"I think he's very comfortable with his decision right now," Steiner said. "I don't have a crystal ball and I can't say he may not change his mind down the line, but he's very comfortable with his decision today."
Steiner said Saturday night that Grbac told the Bengals he wasn't ready to jump into a new situation and needed time to "shut things down for a while" and be with his family. But Grbac apparently came to a conclusion far quicker than he expected to, and informed Steiner of his decision Monday.
The move caps a stunning turn of events for Grbac, who last March signed a five-year, $30 million contract with the defending Super Bowl champions after spending four up-and-down seasons as Kansas City's starter. Hailed as the quarterback who could take Baltimore's offense to the next level, Grbac instead struggled with the Ravens, tossing 18 interceptions and just 15 touchdowns in his 14 regular-season starts. He went 9-7 as Baltimore's starter, including the playoffs.
After publicly backing Grbac all season, the Ravens forced him to reduce his scheduled 2002 salary by two-thirds -- to $2.5 million -- in order to protect his roster spot. When he refused to accept anything less than $4 million in salary, the Ravens released him, thereby sparing them from owing him a $6 million bonus payment Saturday.
Baltimore's contract with Grbac was structured so that the Ravens paid him $5.5 million in total compensation in 2001, then faced a decision on whether to pick up Grbac's option for 2003-2005 by March 2, 2002, when the team would owe the quarterback a $6 million bonus. Combined with Grbac's scheduled $1.5 base salary in 2001, Grbac was expected to earn $7.5 million this season.
Steiner said Saturday night that retirement was an option for Grbac, but that the quarterback just needed time to digest all that happened in recent days regarding his demise in Baltimore. The Bengals remained hopeful that they could rekindle negotiations with Grbac at some point in the near future, but unless Grbac waffles on his retirement decision, that no longer appears possible.
"This really relates to family considerations and factors such as facing another move, which is something he just didn't want to do. Baltimore was the place for him to play. That's what fit. So, with the experience of the last several years, he just felt it was his time."
Steiner said Cincinnati offered Grbac a four-year, $10 million contract Saturday, but other factors were more important to Grbac than financial implication. Last week, when Grbac and the Ravens were locked into their contract stare-down, Steiner privately raised the possibility that Grbac would retire if Baltimore sought to cut Grbac's salary to an unacceptable level.
"This didn't have anything to do with the Bengals," Steiner said. "That really was the best available spot for him, as a starter. And they made him a very generous offer, with plenty of money up front. But this was just about the other issues. Moving his family again and what's he's gone through in the last couple years of his career."
Despite posting the first Pro Bowl season of his career in 2000, the Chiefs released Grbac last February when he refused to restructure his contract to deal with a scheduled $11 million cap number in 2001. When the Ravens put the same sort of squeeze on him this year -- after just one season of his five-year contract -- Steiner said Grbac immediately questioned whether he wanted to continue playing in the cap-conscious NFL.