Leaf fails to make Bucs

Ryan Leaf's short stay with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is over.

Unable to beat out Joe Hamilton for the third-string quarterback job in training camp, Leaf was released Monday when the Bucs claimed receiver Milton Wynn off waivers from the St. Louis Rams.

The move came a day after coach Tony Dungy kept four quarterbacks on the 53-man roster, despite the club's lack of depth at several other positions.

"Ryan came out of training camp as our fourth quarterback," general manager Rich McKay said in a statement.

"It was our hope that we could find a way to keep all four quarterbacks from a roster and contract standpoint. However, we were unable to do so."

Leaf, the second pick in the 1998 draft behind Peyton Manning, was waived by the San Diego Chargers in March.

The Bucs claimed him, stressing at the time that he was not viewed as an answer to their then-unstable quarterback situation.

Free agent Brad Johnson signed a five-year, $28 million US contract with Tampa Bay four days later, pushing Shaun King into a backup role.

Hamilton outplayed Leaf for the third-string job during the pre-season, however, Dungy said Sunday that he had decided to keep four quarterbacks because it was deemed the best thing to do for the "long run."

But injuries have left the Bucs thin at center, guard and nose tackle -- increasing the likelihood that either Leaf or Hamilton eventually would be released.

One way Leaf could have remained with Tampa Bay is if he had been put on injured reserve to have surgery to correct a wrist injury that occurred while he was playing for the Chargers.

The sore wrist affected the fourth-year pro off and on during training camp, although neither he nor coaches ever sited the nagging condition as factor in his performance.

Leaf completed 7 of 19 passes for 81 yards with one interception in four games.

The 25-year-old Leaf flopped during three turbulent seasons in San Diego, compiling a 4-14 record as a starter and alienating teammates, management and fans with boorish behavior.

The Bucs restructured his contract, giving the quarterback a three-year, $10 million US deal that would have paid him $1.5 million US this season and in 2002.

His salary would have jumped to $7 million US in 2003. Since joining the Bucs, Leaf had been able to avoid the off-the-field problems that contributed to his lack of success in San Diego, where he threw more than twice as many interceptions (33) as touchdown passes (13).