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pakowitz 03-06-2003 02:30 PM

Subtracting Turley is a plus for Saints

Thursday March 06, 2003

John DeShazier

The writing is on the wall, and the message may be worth applauding more than any other the Saints will pen this offseason.

The franchise would rather lose without Kyle Turley than win with him.

Details of his departure still must be worked out. A compensatory package that the Saints consider favorable -- namely, a first-round draft choice -- hasn't been proffered yet in exchange for Turley, a first-round pick (No. 7 overall) in 1998 who has started every game he has played, including all 16 at left tackle last season.

But the skids officially and unquestionably were greased the second the Saints signed left tackle Wayne Gandy on Sunday. And if only a second-round pick can be extracted, the Saints eagerly should push Turley into the arms of another franchise.

Considerable as his talent is, it increasingly has been dwarfed by Turley's willingness to be a sideshow. If his skills at least mirrored the image he has carved, the other stuff would become tolerable. But that's not the case, and for some time it's been obvious that Turley could care less whether or not he's a cancerous influence.

His charitable contributions, admirable and considerable, pale in comparison with the shame he heaps upon the city and franchise each time he combusts, occasions that aren't as frequent as his visits to tattoo artists, but are gaining.

Really now, what traits spring to mind when visions of Turley are conjured? Thoughtfulness, passion and lucidity, which are among the honorable characteristics he possesses? Or thoughtless rants and on-field idiocy, which are but a reporter's inquiry or a football snap away?

He has publicly questioned his coach, Jim Haslett, and management. He threatened to sue the NFL if Ravens cornerback Chris McAlister, who snatched the helmet off Saints receiver Donté Stallworth, wasn't penalized similarly to Turley, who ripped the helmet off a Jets player and threw it in 2001 -- even though the Saints, and not the league, punished Turley.

He essentially mocked the team's requirement that he be treated for anger management.

Add instances of exchanged pleasantries with fans here, a middle-finger salute there, the practice of berating those who dare question his play, an expanding need for self-promotion and the fact no one is saying his play is Hall of Fame caliber, and you have a player the Saints can live without.

One the franchise would be better off losing without than winning with.

An infantry of on-the-edge Saints fans who worship and praise his volatility, the "Turley Girlies" and Tampa Bay right defensive end Simeon Rice will mourn his departure. Maybe a handful of teammates will muster frowns. Other than that, Turley's exit would be addition by subtraction, and should be seen as such.

That's not to say moving him will be easy, especially if the Saints toe the line on their hoped-for compensation package. Supply (Turley) might not measure up to demand (a first-round pick) this year, or any other.

Fine. Tweak the demand, take a second-rounder in exchange for a player who can walk as a free agent at the end of the season, and be happy. Because Turley -- who turned down a multiyear contract offer in December -- apparently wants no part of the Saints, and now it's official that the Saints want no part of him.

The writing is on the wall: Turley must go.

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