Williams says holdout is his only leverage Seeking long-term deal, center will miss 2 weeks


July 23, 1998|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

Ravens center Wally Williams said he definitely will miss at least the first two weeks of training camp and possibly more because his agent and the team have not agreed on a long-term contract.

Williams said the NFL's collective bargaining agreement doesn't force the Ravens to pursue a deal with him as their franchise player, but it also doesn't require him to report until the 10th game of the season. Williams said he plans to report in shape and be ready to play all 16 regular-season games for his guaranteed salary of $3.062 million.

But when?

"I don't know," Williams said. "My point is not just to miss two-a-day practices for the sake of missing two-a-days. But the Ravens feel they have a certain leverage by not negotiating now, and I also want to use my leverage.

"During the entire off-season I was told by the Ravens, and so was my agent, that I would get a long-term contract, and we were under the impression that would happen.

"But in the last week, all of that was blown up in smoke when there were statements about them not negotiating with us until the middle of the season. I'm not angry with the Ravens because they have their options, but so do I. When I report, I will be at my required weight, in shape and ready to play so there will be no problems."

Jeff Mitchell, Williams' backup, is looking forward to the job on the first unit.

Well, kind of.

Mitchell, drafted in the fifth round out of Florida in April 1997, missed all of last season after suffering a knee injury in training camp. With Williams out, his repetitions will double, but so may the mistakes. The Ravens have no other centers listed on the roster, but offensive guards/tackles Mike Flynn and Spencer Folau could play center. Folau, in fact, has played the position fairly well in practice at times.

"I'm just trying to get back into the swing of the offense without worrying about Wally this or Wally that," Mitchell said. "Without .. Wally, I don't have anybody to watch or learn from. The good thing is that I get most of the repetitions and I can gain the coaches' confidence."

The Starks watch

Who would have believed that Michigan cornerback Charles Woodson, the Heisman Trophy winner, would be signed before Miami cornerback Duane Starks? Woodson was the No. 4 pick in the draft and Starks was No. 10.

The Starks watch continued for a third day (he has missed four practices) with both sides talking, but no agreement reached. Ravens chief financial officer Pat Moriarty was expected to meet with owner Art Modell last night to go over several new ideas.

"We talked and I'm scheduled to get back to him [today]," Moriarty said. "We're clearly trying to get him a market deal."

Starks' agent, Drew Rosenhaus, said the two sides have made (( progress but there was no agreement in sight. Starks did not return phone calls to his Miami home.

Picture this

Ozzie Newsome, the Ravens' vice president of player personnel and former Cleveland Browns All-Pro tight end, was about to get his picture taken with a fan when he noticed the fan had on a hat with the Pittsburgh Steelers' emblem.

Seconds before the picture was taken, Newsome lifted the fan's hat and spun it around backward.

"You got to turn that thing around," said Newsome, who then posed for the picture.

Playing catch-up

Rookie linebacker Ron Rogers, drafted in the sixth round, missed two minicamps because his university, Georgia Tech, was giving tests at those times. Rogers is behind the rest of his teammates, and he looked a little tentative on sled drills.

He is expected to contribute on special teams this season.

"It hurt him, there is no question," said Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda. "I don't think there is anything he can't catch up on."

A role for Turner

Marchibroda said he had no concerns about signing Floyd Turner to a one-year contract even though the receiver did not play in the league last season. Turner last played for the Ravens in 1996, when he was fourth on the team in receptions with 38 for 461yards and two touchdowns.

Turner, an eight-year veteran, is expected to challenge second-year player James Roe and rookie Patrick Johnson for the third receiver spot.

"I let Floyd know that it is real important that he contribute to special teams," Marchibroda said. "He is a hard-working guy, very tough, and the year off won't make a difference with him."

Turner said the year off gave his knee, which he injured in 1996, a chance to heal completely.

"Everything feels good," Turner said. "I spent the year working out and seeking some business ventures. I always thought I was good enough to get back in the league, but the NFL has a short memory.

"I haven't played on special teams since I was young, so people just assume that you can't and won't. I've told Ted that I can and hTC will. At the same time, they didn't sign me just to have me sitting on the bench and playing special teams."

Et cetera

Marchibroda said he has been impressed with left guard Sale Isaia, who will compete with Ben Cavil for the starting job. Isaia, who reported early because he was injured at the end of last season, missed all of 1997 with a knee injury. Defensive end Michael McCrary jumped offside three times, one day after mentioning how many mistakes the young players were making. Receiver Bryan Kish sprained his shoulder getting hit after running a short route over the middle, the first injury of camp. He sat out yesterday but is expected to return today. Marchibroda said the hot weather has had little effect on his practice schedule and he doesn't anticipate problems the rest of the week. Punter Greg Montgomery has reported little problems with the foot he injured during the off-season.

Pub Date: 7/23/98

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