Collins finds home, paycheck with Saints

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — He’s been called a boozer, a racist and a quitter. More importantly, as far as the New Orleans Saints are concerned, Kerry Collins has been a winner.
With one quarterback on injured reserve, another limping around the practice field and another suffering from sack after sack, coach Mike Ditka was only too happy to claim Collins off waivers.
“All we’re trying to do is find a way to get better,” Ditka said. “He can give us more stability and leadership and I think experience at that position.”
So far, Collins, the fifth overall pick in the 1995 draft, has provided more controversy than leadership.
In 1996, the second year Carolina was in the league, Collins, 25, led the Panthers to a 12-4 record, the NFC West division title and was selected for the Pro Bowl.
That year Carolina defeated San Francisco 30-24 to clinch the NFC West, beat Dallas 26-17 in the playoffs and lost to Green Bay 30-13 in the NFC championship game.
Since then, Collins’ life and times have been rougher. He was sidelined for a time with a broken jaw. He has been accused of having a drinking problem. He once offended teammates with a reported racial slur. And he has been accused of calling it quits after the Panthers opened 0-4.
“Basically, there have been a lot of misunderstandings,” Collins said Thursday. “I never intended it to go as far as it did, but there’s nothing I can do now but go forward.”
Collins denied having a drinking problem or being racist, saying that the extreme attention players received in Carolina highlighted his nights out and his remark in August 1997 that offended teammate Muhsin Muhamamad.
“I don’t think he’s a racist,” said Saints receiver Qadry Ismail. “I talked to my brother (Raghib), who played with him in Carolina, and he said he never thought he was racist.”
Collins’ former coach, Dom Capers, told reporters that Collins said that his heart was no longer into being the quarterback for the winless Panthers. Based on Collins’ comments, Capers said, he made Steve Beuerlein the starter, Shane Matthews the top backup and Collins the third-stringer.
“Something in the conversation got misinterpreted,” Collins said. “There were a lot of things going on and it was just a misunderstanding.”
On Thursday, Beuerlein and Matthews said Collins spoke to them during Carolina’s quarterbacks meeting after he met with Capers and seemed to confirm the coaches’ version of the discussion.
“He told us he asked to be traded. His heart wasn’t into it,” Matthews said. “Those were his exact words.”
“All I can tell you is exactly what he told us in our meeting, and it was very consistent with what Dom has said all along to the media and everybody else,” Beuerlein said.