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Neal among three released by Chargers

SAN DIEGO -- All-Pro fullback Lorenzo Neal was released Thursday by the San Diego Chargers, who also parted with safety Marlon McCree and right tackle Shane Olivea in the hours before free agency opened.

General manager A.J. Smith said all three requested their release so they can quickly jump into free agency.

Olivea had four years left on his contract while McCree and Neal each had three years remaining.

Olivea lost his starting job to Jeromy Clary midway through the season. McCree was released in part to allow safety Eric Weddle to move into the starting lineup. Neal's role was expected to decrease in 2008. Neal also was a Pro Bowler.

McCree is probably best remembered for fumbling a fourth-down interception in the fourth quarter that gave the New England Patriots new life in a playoff win over the top-seeded Chargers after the 2006 season.

Still, there could be a demand for his services.

Smith also said kicker Dave Rayner, a restricted free agent, will not be tendered a contract. He was signed as a kickoff specialist after Nate Kaeding fractured his plant leg in a win over Denver on Dec. 24. Kaeding continued to kick field goals and PATs.

The Chargers expect unrestricted free agents Michael Turner and Drayton Florence to get big money elsewhere.

Turner is expected to get a starting job elsewhere after backing up LaDainian Tomlinson for three seasons. Smith shopped Turner last offseason but didn't get an offer he liked. So he kept the bruising back under a $2.35 million, one-year contract.

The Chargers tried for three years to work out an extension with Florence, who went from starter to nickel back after the emergence of Antonio Cromartie. Cromartie led the NFL with 10 interceptions and was named All-Pro and to the Pro Bowl.

The Chargers said 11 players have either had surgery or are scheduled to.

The three players scheduled to have surgery in the next few weeks were all chosen for the Pro Bowl. They are linebacker Shawne Merriman (knee), left tackle Marcus McNeill (shoulder) and defensive tackle Jamal Williams (knees). Williams pulled out of the Pro Bowl because of his injuries and McNeill, originally a second alternate, was added to the roster when two players pulled out.

Smith declined to be specific about the nature of their injuries.

Pro Bowl tight end Antonio Gates had surgery this week on his dislocated left big toe and is expected to have a rehab of four to six months.

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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