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Falcons Release Jeff George

October 22, 1996

ATLANTA (AP) _ The Atlanta Falcons waived goodbye to a disenchanted Jeff George on Tuesday, ending a stormy relationship that led to the quarterback’s suspension, then his release.

After 4 p.m. Wednesday, George is an unrestricted free agent. But any team claiming George on waivers assumes the remaining share of his $3.6 million salary _ about $1.9 million.

``There really aren’t any options,″ said coach June Jones, who suspended George for conduct detrimental to the team after a sideline tirade Sept. 22.

Leigh Steinberg, George’s agent, said he fears his client’s salary may prevent him from getting signed.

``Our assumption is that no one will claim him″ immediately, Steinberg said. ``Then, in one or two days, we’ll talk to different teams. Jeff would like to play the remainder of the season.″

George and the Seattle Seahawks discussed a contract earlier this month after the suspension. But after a reported six-year, $30 million offer was made, George said he felt he was being rushed into a deal and decided not to approve a trade.

Unable to work out any trades, the Falcons cut George, who cost them two first-round picks in a 1994 trade with the Colts.

The Falcons’ action left George relieved, Steinberg said.

``It’s a happy day for him, because he’s been in a kind of purgatory, in limbo, for the past four weeks.″

The seven-year veteran was suspended for raging at Jones in full view of television cameras after Jones benched him for throwing an interception against the Philadelphia Eagles.

During George’s suspension, he said his reputation was unfairly sullied and there’s nothing he can do to change it.

``No matter what you do in this business, not everybody is going to like you,″ George said. ``I go about my job, try to be the best quarterback I can and try to put my team in the best position to win.″

The last order of business between the quarterback and the team is a hearing next week on George’s grievance.

The Falcons got George because he seemed the prototype for the run-and-shoot offense. He did thrive in the run-and-shoot, setting a Falcons passing record with 4,143 yards last season. George played 35 games for the Falcons and never gained acceptance in Atlanta.

His laid-back demeanor _ cap flipped backward, hands crossed nonchalantly, a slight smirk on his face while standing on the sidelines _ drew the wrath of the fans every time something went wrong. He was a loner, failing to bond with the linemen who protected him. And his reputation was further sullied this year in training camp when he reported 2 1/2 weeks late because of a contract dispute.

Then came the sideline argument with Jones, which George said was nothing personal and merely proved he is a fiery competitor. Others saw it as yet another example of his me-first attitude.

And as the city’s beloved and successful baseball team plays in its fourth World Series this week, George is the fourth starting quarterback to leave the fading Falcons (0-7) since 1993.

But George sees his leavetaking as a new chance.

``Everybody is stereotyped and it just so happens that what I went through in the past has nothing to do with me now,″ George said. ``It’s like that old Terry Bradshaw thing. People said he was the dumbest guy in the league and even when he won four Super Bowls, he never overcame that. I just try to be the best person I can be and have faith in what I can do. I know I can lead a team to the Super Bowl.″

That team won’t be the Atlanta Falcons.

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