Ravens' Williams wavers on camp Veteran center says 'progress' on deal key to reporting on time

July 08, 1998|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

Ravens starting center Wally Williams said yesterday that he has not decided whether he will report with the other veterans to the team's training camp at Western Maryland College on July 24.

Williams, the Ravens' franchise player, and his agent are in negotiations with the team over a long-term contract. Sources close to both the team and Williams said negotiations will resume on July 15.

The Ravens will not sign Williams until after July 15 because, otherwise, they would lose the franchise tag for at least another season, and possibly allow another player to explore free agency without limitations.

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. Afterward, he will become an unrestricted free agent unless he signs a new contract.

Williams said the recent five-year, $16.8 million contract signed by Jets center Kevin Mawae, who was rated below Williams on the free-agent market, would be the center of the renewed talks later this month. The deal included a $5 million signing bonus.

"I don't know if I'll be there when camp opens. It's still up in the air," said Williams.

"It really depends on the progress being made. I'll have to weigh my options and see at the time."

Williams, though, said he is completely focused on the season and will not hold any ill feelings toward the team if he doesn't get a long-term contract. Williams had stopped working out with the team at the training complex, but has returned recently.

Williams said he weighs 315 pounds, his required reporting weight. His weight had been a concern of the coaching staff.

"I'm chilling, staying loose and focused," said Williams. "I know I still have to play ball this season, and those negotiations are between my agent [Tom Condon] and the Ravens.

"It's that time of the year where tempers are starting to flare and players get antsy. Regardless of what happens, my goal is to have a good season and make this a successful team."

"The Ravens know what the market value is and they know what I want," he said. "This is not about upfront money or guaranteed money; it's about getting market value.

"If I have to, I'll play for the $3 million and then see what happens next year. But at this point, negotiations aren't part of my mental outlook."

Williams said he started working out at the complex again because he wanted to rejoin his teammates and gear up for training camp.

"Did my agent like that? Nah," said Williams. "But my boys are here and I wanted to be here. I've talked with Ted [Marchibroda, head coach] and my other coaches. I'm ready for the season.

"Basically, I'm not a malcontent. I'm a pretty mild-mannered guy, and I just want to get what I think I deserve.

"You know, I heard all that talk about weight, but that's information that came from over here because they were trying to make me look bad.

"But on Sundays, I never hear any complaints about my weight," added Williams. "I know guys who play in this league at 330 and 340. Me, I'm right where I'm supposed to be, so that's not an issue."

Pub Date: 7/08/98


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