Thompson gets kicks by staying Special teams ace remains with Ravens for 2 years, $1 million

'Like where team headed'

Veteran safety rejects better Eagles' offer

March 10, 1998|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

Bennie Thompson never wanted to leave Baltimore. He wanted to continue working with Ravens special teams coach Scott O'Brien, and at the age of 35 with eight seasons behind him, he dreaded the thought of moving to another NFL city.

Once the Ravens substantially improved their original contract offer to Thompson, one of the team's more popular players decided to stay.

Thompson and the Ravens reached agreement yesterday on a two-year, $1 million contract that includes a $100,000 signing bonus.

By agreeing to terms with the Ravens, Thompson turned down a more lucrative two-year offer from Philadelphia. The Tennessee Oilers and San Diego Chargers also had expressed interest in him.

"I'm pretty relieved, because I've always wanted to stay here from day one," Thompson said. "I have a great relationship with Scotty O'Brien and with a lot of players on this team, and I like where this team is headed. Plus, it's not good for me to be moving around this late in my career.

"I got a better offer from Philly, but I wanted to stay here. I'm just glad it's done."

Thompson, who went to Grambling, was signed and released by Kansas City in 1985, then played for the next three years in the Canadian Football League with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. A safety, he has made an NFL name for himself in the 1990s primarily as a premier coverage man on special teams.

In every season since 1990, his second of three years with New Orleans, Thompson has finished at least third on his team in special teams tackles.

He has been with his current franchise since 1994, when he was named as a first alternate to the AFC Pro Bowl squad in his first year with the Cleveland Browns. Thompson led the team with 20 solo tackles on special teams that year.

Since the team moved to Baltimore in 1996, Thompson has remained a special teams force. He led the Ravens with 15 special teams tackles in their inaugural season, despite playing for part of that year with a fractured thumb.

Thompson played the final four games of last season with a cast on his broken hand, and still finished second on the team with 18 special teams tackles. He also forced a fumble and recovered two others.

"You have to talk about [Thompson's] preparation, his dedication, his toughness and his leadership before you even get to his ability, which he still has plenty of," said O'Brien. "It's great to have him back."

Thompson agreed to terms after the Ravens sweetened an offer that had soured him.

Initially, the team had offered Thompson a one-year deal that included a $325,000 salary and a $25,000 signing bonus.

"I think the Ravens reconsidered their position. They certainly heard the rumblings that other teams were interested," said Terry Lavenstein, Thompson's agent.

"They came to terms with the fact that they might lose their best special teams player, and they acted accordingly."

Pub Date: 3/10/98

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