Ravens' pursuit of Morris is message of desperation

September 23, 1996|By John Eisenberg

Police found 6 pounds of marijuana and 1 1/2 grams of cocaine in his car.

He plea-bargained to avoid a felony conviction and a prison term.

The Steelers waived him in July because they couldn't condone what he had done.

NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue sent him a letter citing his conduct "as a threat to public support of the league."

Say hello to Bam Morris, the Ravens' idea of an antidote for their weak rushing game.

Isn't that swell?

It appears the Ravens are going to sign Morris to a contract this week if he passes a physical and room is found under the salary cap.

And we're supposed to be excited?

What happened to all that baloney about building character?

Oh, well, guess they'll worry about character later; they need to win some ballgames first after losing two in a row.

Yes, the Ravens are trying to win games, not merit badges for good behavior, and Morris will greatly improve their product. He rushed for 1,395 yards and scored 16 touchdowns in two seasons with the Steelers.

Still, signing him hardly sets a high-class example.

"Millions of fans find it difficult to tolerate, or indeed to root for, athletes who engage in such unlawful activity," Tagliabue wrote in his letter to Morris.

Signing him is a cheap move that reeks of desperation.

True, Morris had no prior criminal record, everyone deserves second chance, and the sports world is full of athletes such as John Lucas and Thomas "Hollywood" Henderson, who took drug-related falls and later cleaned up their acts.

If Morris follows their lead, good for him. Let's hope he does.

Still, the Ravens can't feel too good about signing him so soon after the Steelers cast him aside because of the tawdry message that his presence on their roster sent.

And if the Ravens do feel good about it, what does that say about them?

They took the high road once before, when they passed on Nebraska running back Lawrence Phillips in the draft and wound up without a centerpiece for their running game.

They aren't going to let those darn morals get in the way again!

Of course, they had to take the high road in the draft because they hadn't sold their PSLs and season tickets yet and they weren't sure how the public would respond to the idea of a high-profile domestic abuser as the first draft pick in franchise history.

That's not a problem anymore; with 57,000 season tickets in their pocket, the Ravens can swerve off the high road and do whatever they want.

And hey, with the defending Super Bowl champion Cowboys counting down the days until Michael Irvin returns from his too-brief suspension for a felony cocaine possession charge, why should the Ravens bother with taking the high road?

If one of the best teams in the league can shoot so low, why can't one of the worst teams?

The sad truth is that you compromise your chances when you take the high road in the NFL, which has become a morality-free zone in which many players neither live in the real world nor suffer consequences for their trespasses.

After Deion Sanders' wife filed for divorce last week, citing adultery and "cruel treatment," Sanders said he had been relying on his parents for support because "women come and go" but family is forever.

And gee, women thought they were family, too.

Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre checked into the NFL's substance-abuse program because of an addiction to painkillers that his wife said was changing his personality, but now he wants out of the program because he wants his "freedom."

Apparently, no one said anything about consequences.

Morris probably thought his career was over when he got busted with 6 pounds of pot in his car, but now he knows there is no such thing as damaged goods in the NFL, especially if those goods help take a team to the Super Bowl, as Morris did last season.

The Ravens never would have found themselves in this position if they hadn't blown it on draft day when they passed on UCLA halfback Karim Abdul-Jabbar, who has gone on to star for the Dolphins as a third-round pick.

The Ravens' front office said that day that the team didn't take Abdul-Jabbar or Leeland McElroy because Earnest Hunter had as much or more talent.

"Earnest Hunter is going to be a great back," owner Art Modell said.

Hunter fumbled in each of the team's first two games and failed to recover a kickoff in the third game.

Oops.

But it doesn't matter now, does it?

The Ravens are going to get their man.

His conduct may be "a threat to public support of the league," but he can run with that ball.

Isn't that great?

Pub Date: 9/23/96

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