Byner tackles new career with team 14-year pro accepts job with duties on and off field

Ravens notebook

March 28, 1998|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

Earnest Byner said it took him about two weeks to face the fact that his distinguished, 14-year pro football career was over.

Byner's lifelong association with the sport now moves into a new stage. Two months after the Ravens decided Byner would not be a part of their backfield in 1998, Byner has accepted an offer to remain with the organization in multiple, off-the-field capacities.

On April 1, Byner begins a job that will combine community relations work with coaching and player personnel duties.

"The transition could be somewhat traumatic, but I don't think it will be. The biggest advantage is I'll be able to stay in Baltimore," said Byner, 35, who turned down a chance to become running backs coach with the Kansas City Chiefs, mainly because he did not relish the idea of moving his family to the Midwest.

"We're just working out the parameters [of his new responsibilities]," Byner added. "Whether it's helping to coach the backs, doing some personnel work, spending time with players off the field with personal matters, or doing community relations work, I'll be engaged in something. There are a lot of things I know, and a lot of things I have to learn. I'm looking forward to the challenge."

Byner was deeply disappointed that he wasn't given the chance to earn a roster spot for a 15th season. Originally a 10th-round draft choice of the Cleveland Browns out of East Carolina in 1984, Byner helped the Browns to consecutive AFC championship games in 1986 and 1987, before getting traded to Washington in 1989. Two years later, Byner played a pivotal role in the Redskins' Super Bowl title drive. He re-signed with Cleveland in 1994.

In recent years, Byner's role had been reduced to a third-down specialist. He finished his career with 8,261 yards rushing, 4,605 yards receiving and 71 touchdowns.

Morris nears early release

Former Ravens running back Bam Morris appears ready to move on, earlier than expected.

Morris, whose two years in Baltimore were marred by repeated off-the-field problems, began serving a 120-day sentence at the Rockwall County (Texas) Jail on Jan. 12. Morris violated the terms of his probation after he pleaded guilty to marijuana possession in 1996.

Keith Wheeler, Morris' attorney, said he expects Morris to be released on or before April 11. He said Morris has earned time off his sentence for good behavior.

"Whether mopping floors or preparing meals, Bam has done whatever they've asked of him," Wheeler said.

"I see him regularly, and I believe he understands the seriousness of what he's been through. I think he's anxious to get out and started in a new direction."

Once he is released, Morris is free to return to the NFL. The question is, which team will take another chance on a guy who already has been suspended twice by the league? Morris sat out the first four games of the 1996 and 1997 seasons. The Ravens, who paid him about $1.5 million for those two years, announced two months ago that Morris was no longer in their plans.

No deal yet for Williams

The Ravens and Tom Condon, the agent for center Wally Williams, have yet to re-ignite talks involving a long-term contract for Williams.

Williams has been designated the team's franchise player, and has been tendered a mandatory $3.052 million offer for the 1998 season. Williams wants to sign a multi-year deal, partly to attain some job security and largely to enjoy a huge signing bonus.

To get an idea of what it will cost the Ravens to lock up Williams for the long haul, consider the deal that lured center Kevin Mawae from Seattle to the New York Jets.

Mawae signed a five-year, $16.8 million contract with the Jets. The deal included a $5 million signing bonus. Mawae also gets a $100,000 workout bonus each year.

Then, consider that Williams was the top-rated center on the free-agent market.

Pub Date: 3/28/98

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