'New' Morris awaits chance Football: After a stay in prison, former Raven Bam Morris says he has his life in order and knows what it takes to keep it that way.

July 11, 1998|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

During the past four months, former Ravens running back Bam Morris has gotten up each day to work out as many as three times a day. And then he waits for a phone call from one of 30 National Football League teams inviting him to training camp.

Thus far, the Kansas City Chiefs, Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots have shown lukewarm interest, but there are no imminent deals. Instead, Morris keeps training, running and lifting weights. And waiting, and waiting and waiting

"In my heart, in my mind, there has never been a question about me still being able to play in this league," said Morris, 26, appearing with his new agent, Terry Lavenstein, a prominent Baltimore attorney, in Lavenstein's downtown office. "I've spent a lot of time thinking and talking about a lot of things. People always talked about this great talent I had, but I never respected it. I took it for granted.

"But I served my 90-day sentence in prison and I wouldn't send my worst enemy to jail," said Morris. "You have a lot of time on your hands in prison and it gave me a chance to think about what I did wrong and what I had to do to correct the situation. One thing I will promise to everyone: Bam Morris is not going back to jail again."

Morris has broken similar promises. He claimed he was going straight when the Ravens signed him to a two-year contract worth $1.8 million on Sept. 22, 1996, after authorities in Rockwall, Texas, convicted him for possession of six pounds of marijuana.

After serving a four-game suspension in 1996, Morris went on to rush for 618 yards in the Ravens' final seven games. But in January 1997, Morris tested positive for alcohol and eventually drew another four-game suspension for violating the league's substance and alcohol abuse policy.

Texas authorities eventually had him flown back to Rockwall in October for missing several meetings with his probation officer followed by an incident in November in which Morris was charged with second-degree assault on a Texas woman at a birthday party in Baltimore County that caused a rift among Morris, Michael Jackson and Derrick Alexander, the Ravens' two top receivers. The charges were eventually dropped.

Morris was sentenced to 120 days and given a $2,000 fine and 10-year probation that would mean a 10-year jail sentence if he commits another violation.

Morris seems remorseful, but is it sincere?

"Before, I never had served 90 days in jail, being away from my family," said Morris. "I now face 10 years in maximum security if I make another mistake and that scares the hell out of me. Football is the only thing I know how to do and now there is a possibility I might not be able to play. If that happens, that will be OK because football is not the top priority. My priority is to myself and my family."

According to Lavenstein, Morris also has changed because he is now taking a prescribed medication for a personality disorder that developed from a chemical imbalance. Morris said he started taking the drug late last season, not in time to overcome a lot of problems.

"I'm not a doctor, but I know that it takes anti-depressants several weeks before the body starts to accept it," said Lavenstein. "Over the course of time, we feel Bam has made tremendous progress in that area because this drug allows the brain to release the chemical necessary for him to carry on a normal lifestyle.

"Last year, Bam Morris had a lot of money, but he did not change the places or people he hung around," said Lavenstein. "Now we have him moving in the right direction. We've changed a lot of those disruptive things. The next time Bam scores three touchdowns after a game, he won't be going out to celebrate with his teammates. Instead, he'll be going out with his family as well as a newfound mentor."

The mentor is John L. Williams, Morris' former Pittsburgh Steelers running back partner. The two were close during their playing days, and Morris has spent the last couple of weeks at Williams' home outside Jacksonville, Fla., where Williams owns several restaurants and a funeral home.

Williams, now retired, has been training with Morris. Lavenstein said he has retained Williams to live in the city where Morris signs his next contract for the entire season.

"Since his rookie year, Bam has always taken a liking to me," said Williams. "Anytime a guy gets involved in a lot of money, there can be a lot of bad stuff that comes with it. That's why I had Bam come down here with me, to talk and clear his head a little. He finally realizes that he has to move forward with his life, that his chances of playing in the future are slim. I believe he is a changed person.

"Recently he was a chaperon with me for about 90 problem children on a bus trip from here to Wild Adventures in Valdosta, Ga. They all knew Bam and he had a lot of positive messages for them."

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