Renegades could turn new Leaf

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:02 AM ET

The Renegades have added another former first-round NFL draft pick to their negotiation list, the Sun has learned.

Quarterback Ryan Leaf.

Picked second in the 1998 draft by the San Diego Chargers after the Indianapolis Colts took Peyton Manning, Leaf's career included four teams and just 18 starts before it ended in 2002. Along the way, it was interrupted by a wrist injury that forced him to miss the entire 1999 season as well as numerous emotional off-field outbursts.

Blessed with tremendous talent, "Cryin' Ryan" was described as immature, confrontational and divisive in the locker room.

But the Renegades feel that the ability he displayed at Washington State -- plus the fact that he's only 29 -- makes it worth their while to make a few phone calls.

The Renegades put quarterback Tim Couch on their neg list last weekend. Couch was the first player selected in the 1999 NFL draft.

"We're looking for any valid player we can find," Forrest Gregg, the club's VP of football operations, said last night. "I don't have any idea whether Ryan Leaf wants to play ball anymore and I don't know if he'd be interested in playing here. But it doesn't take much to find out.

"I don't know if he's a CFL-type quarterback," Gregg added of Leaf, who broke into the NFL at 6-foot-5, 235 lbs. "And I don't know that he's not."

Asked if he was worried about Leaf's off-field reputation, Gregg said: "All you want to know is if he can play football. Then you worry about what kind of guy he is after that. I've talked to people who like him ... maybe it wasn't his time, or his opportunity. If there's a guy out there who can help you, you look into it."

For the moment, the Renegades and coach Joe Paopao are focused on a more immediate target -- the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

"Joe's not happy with the last three ball games and he's doing everything he can to rectify that," said Gregg. "I feel very confident he will."

FOUR ROSTER CHANGES

A home game against the second worst team in the CFL is a good place to start.

Tomorrow, the Renegades host the 3-9 Bombers, the Jim Daley-coached squad that started them on their current three-game slide and has since lost three in a row itself.

Paopao is making four roster changes for the crucial contest.

Cornerback Crance Clemons finally makes his first start of the season as a replacement for Bo Rogers, who was torched by Bombers receiver Chris Brazzell in the 38-17 loss Aug. 19.

Linebacker Robert Grant returns for the first time since that night in Winnipeg, a game he left by ambulance with a neck injury. Grant replaces defensive end Anthony Collier, who is out with an ankle injury.

As for the non-import moves, defensive back Donnie Ruiz will take linebacker Martin Gagnon's roster spot, while punter/kicker Mark Irvin will not be used as insurance for Matt Kellett -- as he was last week against B.C. -- and gives up his spot to Pat Woodcock.

As well, the Renegades decided against activating wide receiver Matt Cherry, a last-day cut of the Cincinnati Bengals, whose first practice in Ottawa was Monday. Instead, rookie Robert Quiroga will get his second start in a row.

Cherry, who was suggested to Gregg by Bengals president Mike Brown, hoped for the chance to jump right into the fire.

"Surprisingly, I feel I've got (a handle) on the offence ... everything they taught me, I feel I got it down," said Cherry, a 6-foot-1, 200-pounder who is the University of Akron's all-time leading receiver. "It's just a matter of getting some reps."

Cherry is anxious to make his CFL debut. "I didn't come here just to watch. And if I get in, it's going to be hard to get me out. I'm pretty confident I can help this team."


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