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Steelers' Foote awaits word on trade

Linebacker Larry Foote spent Tuesday morning fielding enough questions about his supposed release from the Steelers and a possible return to his native Detroit that he actually thought the team had cut him.

A phone conversation with Steelers director of football operations Kevin Colbert in the afternoon cleared up things for Foote.

Sort of.

Foote said Colbert told him that the Steelers are trying to trade the eighth-year veteran, but that they have not committed to releasing him if a deal with another team cannot be worked out. When asked if he expects to be released if he is not traded, Foote said, "That's the question I posed, and (Colbert) said that's up to (coach) Mike Tomlin. He said he doesn't know."

Tomlin has said he would like to have Foote back. But Foote, who has been a starter at inside linebacker since 2004, said he wants to go to a team where he can be an every-down player. Former first-round draft pick Lawrence Timmons is expected to start ahead of Foote this season.

Foote, who usually is removed in passing situations, said he requested a trade in February.

The 6-foot-1, 239-pounder said he plans to skip minicamp, which starts Friday and is mandatory, in an attempt to force the Steelers' hand.

"The role for me to grow, it ain't there for me anymore, so it's time for me to get a fresh start," Foote said. "I think I've been bottled up a little bit in Pittsburgh."

The Steelers could clear about $3 million in salary cap space by jettisoning Foote, who is going into the final year of his contract. They have a replacement in Timmons, a third-year man.

Timmons emerged as a force in 2008 after playing sparingly as a rookie. The promise he showed last season made may have made Foote expendable, something even Foote acknowledged at various times last season.

There is a perception that the clock started ticking on Foote's time in Pittsburgh, or at least in the starting lineup, after the Steelers took Timmons in the first round of the 2007 draft. But Foote said he has long coveted a bigger role than the one he has with the Steelers, which is why he wants to go elsewhere.

"I've been wanting that for quite some time," he said, "even before Timmons actually got there."

The Steelers may be able to fetch something in return for Foote.

Foote turns just 29 in June and has started for two Super Bowl-winning teams. Foote led the Steelers in tackles in 2005 (123), and his 86 tackles last season were fifth most on the team.

He has been linked with the Lions since he is from Detroit and still has strong ties to the community there.

"At this point, I'll go to whoever wants me and get a chance to show what I can really do," Foote said.

Drafted in the fourth round in 2002, Foote played primarily on special teams in his first two seasons with the Steelers before cracking the starting lineup.

If and when he and the Steelers part ways, Foote said he will only have fond memories of the time he spent in Pittsburgh.

"I don't have any ill-feelings toward the team, the organization, the coaches or any of that," Foote said. "I got two Super Bowls, made some money, played for one of the best franchises in football so what else can I ask for?"

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