Hunter cut as Ravens' reserve back Team says release has nothing to do with battery charge

Baldwin to sign today

Backs in a surplus with Morris in camp

October 09, 1996|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

The Ravens released reserve running back Earnest Hunter yesterday, nine days after he was charged with the battery of his girlfriend by Baltimore County police.

Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda said Hunter's release was independent of the charges, but based on a fumble in the Pittsburgh Steelers game and his failure to field a kickoff against the Houston Oilers.

"This has been sort of an ongoing thing," Marchibroda said. "We couldn't make a decision until Bam [former Steelers running back Bam Morris] reported.

"Earnest has the ability and it wouldn't surprise me if he caught on with somebody else," said Marchibroda. "But we were looking for a contribution on special teams, and we never got it from him."

Morris reported to the Ravens' Owings Mills training camp Monday, which put four running backs on the roster.

According to a team source, the Ravens will announce the signing of running back Randy Baldwin, a six-year veteran, to a one-year contract today if he passes the physical.

Baldwin's agent, Gary Uberstine, confirmed that his client had agreed in principle to a one-year deal with the Ravens. If Baldwin doesn't pass the physical, said the source, the Ravens most likely would sign rookie running back Derrick Cullors, who was one of the last players cut by the Ravens in training camp and is currently on the New England Patriots' developmental squad.

The 5-foot-8, 201-pound Hunter, a second-year player, made around $130,000 last season. Hunter's phone had been disconnected, and he wasn't around the complex for comment yesterday.

"We are aware of Earnest Hunter's situation," said vice president Kevin Byrne in the team's only statement about the alleged battery incident. "We did our investigation, we talked with him regarding the matter. The rest we handled internally."

According to the police report, officer George Pfaff responded to a spousal assault call in Brooklandville on Sept. 29 at 9: 42 p.m.

Cheree R. Davis, Hunter's girlfriend who lived with the player, advised the officer that an argument had occurred between Hunter and her. When Hunter attempted to walk down the stairs, Davis hit him in the back several times with a large stick, according to the report.

As the argument continued in the kitchen, Davis came at Hunter, at which time Hunter hit Davis in the left eye with an open hand causing her to fall to the floor. Pfaff observed swelling and discoloration in Davis' left eye. She was later transported to Greater Baltimore Medical Center for treatment, according to Pfaff. Hunter is to appear at the Owings Mills District Court on Jan. 6.

Hunter was expected to have a big season this year and was one of the main reasons the Ravens did not take running backs Karim Abdul-Jabbar of UCLA or Chris Darkins of Minnesota in the college draft.

But Hunter had trouble learning his assignments in training camp and continued to fumble during the preseason.

Hunter's fumble against Pittsburgh came at the Steelers' 2 with nTC 5: 09 left in the game and the Ravens losing 31-17.

Against Houston, Hunter failed to run under a kickoff and then watched as the ball bounced inside the Ravens' 5 before teammate Jermaine Lewis recovered it.

"Potential, he had plenty of it, but he never lived up to it," said Marchibroda. "Why? Maybe because Earnest still has to grow in some ways."

Hunter was relieved of handling the ball on special teams after the Houston debacle and played mostly on the punt team.

In the 5-10, 216-pound Baldwin, the Ravens will get special teams help immediately. Baldwin played three years, 1992 through 1994, with the Cleveland Browns before becoming a journeyman with the Green Bay Packers, Carolina Panthers and San Francisco 49ers.

Baldwin returned 14 kickoffs for 316 yards with the Panthers last season, and was cut by the Green Bay Packers during training camp in July.

"At this point, Randy is just glad to be in camp and he'll do anything they ask," said Uberstine. "We don't expect any major surprises. We expect to have a done deal tomorrow [today]."

Cullors showed a lot of promise during the team's third preseason game against Green Bay and finished the exhibition season with 51 yards on 14 carries in the two games he played. Salary cap concerns caused the team not to re-sign him to the developmental squad.

Team vice president of personnel Ozzie Newsome welcomes the addition despite the team's having defensive problems.

"There was no defensive talent available on the free-agent market, so you take the guys who can still make you a better football team," said Newsome.

The Ravens also are likely to release reserve tight end Harold Bishop once tight ends Eric Green and Frank Hartley recover from knee injuries. Green's target date is around Oct. 20 when the Ravens play Denver. Hartley's target date has yet to be determined.

Next for Ravens

Opponent: Indianapolis Colts

When: Sunday, 8 p.m.

Site: RCA Dome, Indianapolis

TV/Radio: Ch. 54, TNT/WJFK (1300 AM), WLIF (101.9 FM)

Line: Colts by 9

Pub Date: 10/09/96

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