Williams unlikely to be at minicamp Raven seeks long-term contract

Testaverde empties his locker

May 27, 1998|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

Ravens team officials have not heard officially if veteran center Wally Williams will attend the two-week minicamp beginning June 1, but a recent trend indicates the team's designated franchise player will not participate.

Meanwhile, Ravens veteran quarterback Vinny Testaverde has cleaned his personal belongings out of his locker and has not received any notification from the team about the minicamp, according to his agent, Mike Azzarelli. The Ravens are expected to cut Testaverde after June 1 so the team will not have to take the full hit of his remaining salary and save $1.6 million.

Neither Williams nor his agent, Tom Condon, who are involved in negotiations with the team about a long-term contract, was available to comment. Because he is the team's franchise player, Williams has been guaranteed a $3.062 million salary for this season, the average of the top five offensive linemen in the league.

But Williams, 27, would like a long-term agreement before the season begins, which would earn him a several-million-dollar signing bonus and probably more money than he would make in 1998 as the franchise player.

"We have not been told what he is going to do," said Ozzie Newsome, the Ravens' vice president of player personnel. "Around the league, it has been 100 percent as far as franchise players not participating in May minicamps."

The Ravens are not likely to sign Williams until after July 15 or the team would lose the franchise tag for at least another season. The most likely scenario has the Ravens signing Williams before veterans report to Western Maryland College for training camp on July 23.

Privately, the Ravens are concerned about Williams being well above his playing weight of 305 pounds. Weight restrictions and incentives will be a part of his new contract, according to several team officials.

"Holdouts are part of the game," Newsome said. "We have extended him a legitimate contract as a franchise player, and we have guaranteed that money. Either way, he is going to play for the Ravens this season."

According to several veterans on the team, players have received a letter from coach Ted Marchibroda listing the minicamp dates, but Testaverde has not had any communication with the club. He is expected to be the only veteran waived.

Marchibroda could not be reached to comment yesterday, but personal items such as family pictures had been removed from Testaverde's locker. The Ravens signed starting quarterback Jim Harbaugh on Feb. 14.

Testaverde completed 271 of 470 passes last season for 2,971 yards and 18 touchdowns. He also had 15 interceptions and was benched in favor of third-year quarterback Eric Zeier, who started the final three games in 1997.

Once the Ravens cut Testaverde, the team still has to pay him a guaranteed salary of $1.5 million. The Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers are two teams interested in Testaverde.

Second-round draft pick Patrick Johnson, a receiver out of Oregon, and sixth-round pick Ron Rogers, a Georgia Tech linebacker, also will not participate in the minicamp because they are taking tests at their schools.

Pub Date: 5/27/98

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