DENVER (AP) _ Facing the prospect of losing playing time, linebacker Bill Romanowski is leaving the Denver Broncos after failing to reach a new contract deal with the team.
After two days of talks, Romanowski asked for and received his unconditional release from the Broncos on Wednesday. The team had asked him to convert his $2.2 million base salary contract into an incentive-laden deal.
The 35-year-old Romanowski, who began his career in San Francisco and also played for Philadelphia, has four Super Bowl rings, two with the 49ers and two with the Broncos.
He said he could have lived with a reduced base salary, but not losing playing time to Ian Gold, who was selected to this month's Pro Bowl as the AFC's special-teams standout.
``I wish there was something we could have gotten done to allow me to stay here,'' Romanowski said. ``But at least I'll get an opportunity for another team to say, 'We need somebody like you. You're going to be an integral part of our team trying to win a Super Bowl.' And that's what I want.''
Coach Mike Shanahan told Romanowski Tuesday that the Broncos intended to give more work in training camp to Gold.
Shanahan also gave Romanowski the option of being released. But Denver has told Romanowski he can return to the Broncos at any time if talks with other teams fall through.
``The bottom line is, I know I can still play,'' Romanowski said. ``I proved that this past year and I know there are other teams that saw the way I played. They see the film. They know what I can do. Because this is all about playing. It's not about the money. It's about not coming off the field.''
Romanowski was one of the most beloved and despised players in Denver. Most fans loved him for his bone-crushing, game-changing hits against then-Carolina quarterback Kerry Collins in the 1997 preseason, Atlanta quarterback Chris Chandler in the 1999 Super Bowl and Oakland quarterback Rich Gannon last season.
But a smaller number detested Romanowski for spitting in the face of San Francisco wide receiver J.J. Stokes and being accused of illegally obtaining a weight-loss supplement.
``While Bill may have been viewed in some circles as a controversial figure, those people did not know the real Bill Romanowski,'' said Romanowski's lawyer, Harvey Steinberg, who watched a jury clear his client of all wrongdoing last June.