Crouch Quits Rams, "Retires"
RamNation Writer Barry Waller
Rams head coach Mike Martz was roundly criticized in April after drafting Heisman Trophy winning QB Eric Crouch in the third round with the 95th overall selection in the 2002 NFL draft.
Now Martz will add yet another reason to the list of things same fans and media dislike about his methods, as Crouch told the team Friday that he is retiring before ever playing in a regular season game.
During the off season mini camps, training camp and pre-season, Crouch did little to justify Martz faith in him as he made the transition to wide receiver, as he suffered with a hamstring injury, shin splints and finally a serious thigh bruise and other injuries related to a hard hit near the end of the Rams first exhibition game in Tennessee. Crouch was put to a quick test by Martz in that game, despite his lack of practice time, and caught just two passes for 30 yards, while returning four kickoffs for a dismal 49 yards.
Though Crouch failed to impress anyone in camp, Martz announced early on that he would make the final cut, no matter what, but apparently Crouch, unable to practice much since the August 10th injury, felt bad about taking up a roster spot this season, after the Rams did not put him on injured reserve.
After talking to his agent, St. Louisan Jim Steiner, last week, Crouch approached Martz with his surprising announcement on Friday, though no official announcement has yet to be issued by the Rams, even after ESPN broke the story Wednesday evening. However, Martz and Steiner have confirmed the retirement, with Martz saying only "It came as a shock".
Steiner, in an interview on KFNS radio in St. Louis, left Crouch's future plans open, saying he may try again next year after getting completely healthy. The Rams, according to Steiner, have been "very fair" with the retirement settlement, as Crouch will not only keep his $395,000 signing bonus but also a part of his salary for 2001. There should be no major cap implications as a result of the retirement, at least not till 2003.
The Rams traded for ex-Steeler #1 pick WR Troy Edwards before the final cuts, and he is practicing this week as his injured knee recovers. The Rams also still have Yo Murphy on the roster, so the loss of Crouch should have no effect at least this season, when Crouch would probably have seen little or no action anyway.
Still, having a first day draft pick, even a late one in round three, quit so quickly is an occurrence that Martz, who fell in love with Crouch's athleticism in workouts and pushed to draft him to be changed to a wide receiver, will not easily live down among his detractors. No doubt Rams fans will feel that help at linebacker or defensive end or even tight end would have been a better choice for the Rams with that #95 pick.
Just two picks after the Rams selected Crouch, the Cardinals picked a highly touted DE in Kentucky's Dennis Johnson, and Florida pass rush specialist Alex Brown went to the Bears at pick 104. Linebackers Kevin Bentley (Cleve.#101), David Thornton (Indy #106), Ben Taylor (Cleve. #111), and TE Randy McMichael (Miami #114) , were all players who could have made the Rams squad and been a factor in 2002.
Both college quarterbacks picked by the Rams, Crouch and Steve Belisari, who was trying to move to safety, are now out for this season at least, along with #4 pick, guard Travis Scott, who joined Belisari on injured reserve.