Byner will explore coaching options Though not ready to retire, back to visit with Chiefs

Ravens notebook

January 31, 1998|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

Earnest Byner is not quite ready to write a retirement speech, even though he is taking a serious look at life beyond the playing field.

Byner, a 14-year veteran who Byner will turn 36 in September, thought he would play out the last year of his contract with the Ravens in 1998. Those plans changed Wednesday, when the team announced it would not bring Byner back.

Although he is still holding out hope that some organization might be interested in his third-down specialist ability and positive locker room presence, Byner is looking into other possibilities. On Tuesday, he will travel to Kansas City, Mo., to meet with former Cleveland Browns coach Marty Schottenheimer about the chance to coach the Chiefs' running backs.

The Ravens also have invited Byner to stay with their organization in a coaching or player personnel role.

"They need a position coach, which is a big deal," Byner said of the Chiefs. "I'd have to be open to that. It won't be an easy decision for me. My preference at this point is do it here, so I don't have to move my family. I'm leaning toward staying here, even though Marty has been after me for four or five years to come out there and coach for him. I'm going to Kansas City to see if it feels like home."

Schottenheimer, who coached Byner in the 1980s, when Cleveland played in back-to-back AFC championship games, said, "I'm not sure what Earnest wants to do, but Earnest and I go way back. He's a unique person, a fierce competitor and very, very bright."

Byner's playing time diminished drastically over the past two seasons with the presence of Bam Morris. He still thinks he can contribute on the field.

"I still want to explore [playing] opportunities," he said. "I'm obviously disappointed with the decision that was made [by the Ravens]. I was told last year that I still had some football left in me. Could I have played better? Of course. But I contributed when I was asked to. We were 3-1 with me in there, before Bam came back [from a four-game suspension]. Even after I got pushed aside for Bam, I still produced.

"I'd like to stay here and play in the new stadium and be part of this team turning around. I wanted to go out a winner. I know I'm an insurance kind of guy. It sounds to me like [the Ravens] still need insurance."

Williams a happy Raven

Center Wally Williams, considered the most prized among the team's unrestricted free agents, made it clear that he wants to remain a Raven. Williams said he isn't even interested in exploring the free-agent market, come Feb. 13.

"I'm pretty content where I am. Shopping, especially for a family man like myself, is not a concern for me," Williams said. "I don't want to move my family all over the United States. I have a job right here, and I'd like to keep it right here.

"If I can get my money where I am, it doesn't matter what other teams offer me. [But] if we don't get this done by Feb. 13, and people start fishing, we might have to sit back and re-evaluate things."

Weighty matter

Next week, the Ravens will begin construction on a $500,000, transportable weightlifting facility to be built on part of the artificial turf field at the team's Owings Mills facility.

The 12,000-square-foot structure, which also will include enough room for players to do limited running and agility drills, should be ready in time for the team's off-season conditioning program that begins March 9.

Pub Date: 1/31/98

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