Testaverde twists in wind Ill feelings with Ravens seem reason for team's not waiving him yet

June 02, 1998|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

A strained relationship between Ravens management and the agent for Vinny Testaverde played a major part in the team's deciding not to waive the 11-year quarterback yesterday.

According to one team official, Testaverde's release is inevitable and the team will cut him before the end of the week. Testaverde could have been waived as early as 4 p.m. yesterday.

The delay forces Testaverde to wait to find a new team. The Carolina Panthers, New Orleans Saints and Chicago Bears reportedly are interested in signing him.

"They know they're going to release me, I know they're going to release me and this stuff is just B.S.," said Testaverde. "All I wanted from them is to release me on June 1 so I could make all the necessary arrangements to move forward."

There is a discrepancy within the organization about if and when Testaverde was invited to minicamp, which began yesterday with veterans taking physicals. Early last week, Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda said Testaverde would not be invited to the minicamp, but, according to Ravens owner Art Modell, Testaverde received a letter requiring him to participate.

Testaverde said he didn't receive the letter until Sunday night, which was confirmed by agent Mike Azzarelli. The Ravens will waive Testaverde, who has three years remaining on his contract, for salary cap reasons. The team is expected to save $1.6 million on this year's cap, but still has to pay Testaverde a guaranteed $1.5 million in 1998.

Testaverde was one of several veterans who did not report yesterday. Starting center Wally Williams, in the middle of contract negotiations, also did not report, and place-kicker Matt Stover and tight end Brian Kinchen were delayed because of travel problems. Strong-side linebacker Peter Boulware was expected to arrive late last night.

"We've invited him to minicamp. I would hope that he would show up," Modell said about Testaverde. "I would like him in camp this week, period. If he doesn't show, that says something. He has been quoted as saying he won't play for this franchise again. I want him to say that to my face.

"It would be a short discussion," said Modell. "I don't know if it [the quote] is accurate or not or if it's coming from Azzarelli, the game he is playing. Maybe I'm clinging to the distant past when Jim Brown and Milt Plum would walk into my office and say, 'I have a problem, can you help me out?'

"The players are fundamentally good kids. They're loyal. They want to do a job for you. The agent has an excessive amount of control and influence over the player. Not just in this case, all cases. If he comes back and says, 'I won't come back; I want you to release me,' that will tell me something. The decision will be made soon. You can read between the lines."

According to several team officials, members of the front office staff are unhappy about Azzarelli's repeated phone calls inquiring about when Testaverde would be released. They also were upset about alleged recent comments Azzarelli has made criticizing the organization.

"If I had fallen off the face of the earth on Jan. 1, 1998, Vinny Testaverde would not feel any different than he feels on June 1," said Azzarelli, who returned home from the hospital yesterday after bypass surgery. "Art Modell didn't give me any credit when Vinny went to the Pro Bowl, he took all of that. So why give me any credit or blame now?

"Despite if I had any influence or not, if Ted Marchibroda, Art Modell, David Modell or Ozzie Newsome had come up and said we're interested in signing Jim Harbaugh for a third-round pick, or we're interested in Jim Kelly, we wouldn't have had this situation," said Azzarelli. "We've been through that before, and there wasn't any problem. History proves that."

Testaverde defended his agent, and said the Ravens sent him the letter about the minicamp via overnight mail Thursday, three days before veterans were to report.

Testaverde said he was out of town with his family and a neighbor signed for the letter, which he received Sunday night. The letter was dated May 5, 1997, not 1998, according to Testaverde.

"I didn't get the letter until the night before so there is no way anyone could have expected me to be there at the minicamp," Testaverde said from his home near Tampa, Fla. "They could have at least gotten me the letter eight to nine days before camp. There were no messages on my answering machine. But only the second part of the camp is mandatory, and if it comes down to that, and they want me there, then I'll be there because I plan on honoring the contract. If the man wants to pay me $4 million this year to call on me to do whatever, I'll do whatever they want."

In 1997, the Ravens restructured the final three years of Testaverde's contract to a four-year deal. Testaverde is scheduled to make $4 million this season ($1.5 million guaranteed), $5 million in 1999 and $6 million in 2000.

Testaverde was irritated about Modell's comments about loyalty. Testaverde had his contract restructured several times while with the Cleveland Browns/Ravens in order for the team to sign several free agents.

"A couple of years ago, Art Modell told me about a player he kept around Cleveland just because he was loyal and he said there was no more loyalty around," said Testaverde. "I thought I was in a good situation in Baltimore, but they made a decision and there is nothing I can do about it."

Pub Date: 6/02/98

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