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Chargers cut Andre Coleman

August 20, 1997

SAN DIEGO (AP) _ Andre Coleman returned a kickoff for a touchdown in San Diego’s only Super Bowl appearance and caught a Hail Mary pass for a TD in a Monday night game last year.

Yet Coleman was out of a job Tuesday, waived by the San Diego Chargers as they reduced their roster to 60.

``I would certainly love to have him on the team,″ rookie NFL head coach Kevin Gilbride said. ``It’s just a luxury we can’t afford right now.″

Coleman, a third-round draft pick in 1994, was first on the wide receiver depth chart opposite Tony Martin heading into training camp. He was a victim of a numbers game caused by injuries, and the performances of veteran free agent Ray Crittenden and rookie Latario Rachal. The Chargers also save some $200,000 under the salary cap.

One reason for releasing Coleman now rather than at next week’s final cutdown was to wait until the last possible minute in determining whether defensive tackle Reuben Davis will go on injured reserve or be available for the last month or so of the season. San Diego also wanted to give Coleman a chance to catch on with another team.

Davis tore his right Achilles’ tendon on the second day of training camp. After he underwent surgery, the team said he’d be out at least through November. If he goes on injured reserve, he can’t play at all this season.

Coleman was San Diego’s career leader with 166 kickoff returns, 3,914 kickoff return yards and four kickoff returns for touchdowns. He also scored on a kickoff return in San Diego’s 49-26 Super Bowl loss to San Francisco 2 1/2 years ago.

He started 11 games last year, catching 36 balls for 486 yards. That’s 30 more catches than Bryan Still, who was a rookie bust. Still has ``improved immeasurably,″ Gilbride said. Plus, the Chargers aren’t about to cut Still because they sent this year’s first-round draft pick to Tampa Bay in order to move up in the 1996 draft and take him as the first of their two second-round choices.

``That’s what makes this time of year especially tough, because Andre’s done a great job for us,″ general manager Bobby Beathard said. ``We do feel we have other people that can bring back kickoffs for us. It remains to be seen if we have someone who had the impact Andre did ... but there’s no assurances those guys are going to make the team yet, either.″

Coleman’s teammates were surprised.

``You just hate to see that,″ receiver Charlie Jones said. ``He helped me so much when he was here. It’s a crazy business.″

Said Crittenden: ``You hate to see a guy as good as Andre go, but each year things happen on teams that people don’t expect, and this is one of them.″

The Chargers want to give Crittenden and Rachal a close look at receiver in Friday night’s exhibition finale at Minnesota. Crittenden missed the last two seasons due to injuries. Rachal, who played at Fresno State and in the World League last year, has made a big impact on special teams.

Rachal could have an inside track because of the injury to Thomas, a big contributor on special teams. Rachal returned a punt 77 yards for a touchdown in the exhibition opener and leads the team with six special teams tackles.

Crittenden, 6-foot-1 and 196 pounds, and Martin are the only Chargers receivers who are at least 6 feet tall. Crittenden is an asset inside the 20-yard line, and has TD catches of 3 and 5 yards this exhibition season.

``It wasn’t a knock against Andre as far as his playing ability, we just probably felt like we wanted a bigger guy,″ receivers coach Tyrone Dixon said. ``Ray has made some big catches down there and he’s a bigger target. That’s the only difference.″

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