Chargers' Butler diagnosed with cancerPosted: Tuesday July 30, 2002 12:27 AM
Updated: Tuesday July 30, 2002 2:37 AM
SAN DIEGO (AP) -- San Diego Chargers general manager John Butler, one of the NFL's best talent evaluators, has been diagnosed with lung cancer and started chemotherapy.
New head coach Marty Schottenheimer broke the news to the players at a meeting, at Butler's request, spokesman Bill Johnston said.
Butler, who turns 56 on Aug. 13, didn't immediately return a call to his home, and Schottenheimer was in a meeting and unavailable for comment.
Butler was diagnosed a few weeks ago, Johnston said. The GM quit smoking during last season, Johnston said.
"John has been a winner and fierce competitor on and off the field his whole life," team president Dean Spanos said. "We all have confidence that he will overcome this new challenge. We're all behind John 100 percent."
The Chargers said that during Butler's chemotherapy, "he is tending to business as usual and wants everyone in the Chargers family to do the same. While he is grateful for the kind thoughts and interest, he wants the entire organization to remain focused on bringing a world championship to San Diego."
Butler was hired as San Diego's GM on Jan. 5, 2001, less than two weeks after the Chargers finished 1-15, their worst season ever.
He spent the previous 14 seasons with Buffalo, helping build the teams that reached four straight Super Bowls. He was GM from 1993 until late in the 2000 season when he was fired by owner Ralph Wilson, who said he couldn't get a commitment from the GM that he wanted to stay in Buffalo.
Under Butler, Buffalo was one of the few powers of the early '90s that was able to remain an annual playoff contender in the salary-cap era.
Among his draftees, mostly taken late in the first round or in later rounds, were Thurman Thomas, Phil Hansen, Eric Moulds, Henry Jones, Sam Cowart, Marcellus Wiley, John Fina, Peerless Price and other solid players.
The Chargers didn't have a true GM in 2000 following Bobby Beathard's retirement earlier that year.
Once Butler took over in San Diego, he cut troubled quarterback Ryan Leaf and then traded the top pick in the 2001 draft to Atlanta, dropping down to fifth where he took LaDainian Tomlinson. Tomlinson rushed for a Chargers rookie-record 1,236 yards last year, when the Chargers were 5-11, losing their last nine games.
Butler, who can be intense and impatient, fired head coach Mike Riley
in January and hired Schottenheimer. San Diego had the fifth overall pick again in the 2002 draft, and Butler chose Texas cornerback Quentin Jammer. Jammer is holding out.