Bears may have to tackle religious split

ON THE NFL

August 02, 1998|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

As if the Chicago Bears didn't have enough problems these days, they may now have to cope with a religious split on their team.

The Bears, who come to Baltimore on Saturday night to play the Ravens in their first game at the new football stadium at Camden Yards, are coming off a 4-12 season and don't have a Pro Bowl Enis player on their roster. On top of that, their first-round pick, Curtis Enis, not only is holding out, but also is facing a sexual-assault charge.

A woman in Irving, Texas filed the charge against Enis on May 29.

His lawyer describes the charges as "hogwash." Enis was married on July 4, says he has been born again and has joined an Austin-based athletic ministry called Champions For Christ.

But this new affiliation is the center of another controversy.

The CFC has provided a new agent for Enis, Greg Feste, who has never negotiated an NFL contract. Enis fired former Raider Vann McElroy of Team Sports, Inc., who was hired after his previous agent, Jeff Nalley, caused him to be suspended for the Citrus Bowl by illegally buying him a suit.

CFC's procurement of an agent for Enis has raised some eyebrows.

Sports psychologist Don Beck said, "It's certainly possible they're serving a genuine purpose, but you become suspicious of those who hide behind a clerical cloth when big bucks are being traded."

Some of Enis' future teammates who belong to CFC feel the organization is being unfairly maligned.

Defensive end Mark Thomas said, "This whole thing is blowing me away because if someone said Curtis started going to church, no one would say anything. Champions For Christ is just a group of believers. It is not a cult."

Thomas and two teammates, Greg Huntington and Jimmy Herndon, said they'd like to see the whole team join CFC.

"We want everybody to know the truth that we know," Huntington said.

But some of the Bears who don't belong to CFC are apprehensive about the situation.

Jim Flanagan said, "You just want to feel it's a normal situation, just a work environment. You wouldn't have that in another office."

Huntington said when Enis does sign, he's going to be a positive role model.

Meanwhile, Enis hasn't signed and Feste wants a seven-year, $45 million deal.

It's uncertain how all this will play out, but the bottom line is the Bears are without the rookie running back who was supposed to give them a jump-start this year.

Dollars and cents

Did you see how thrilled the 13 Powerball lottery players in Ohio were to win $12 million each?

In the real world, people are thrilled to get $12 million. In the fantasy world of sports, $12 million isn't enough to get anyone excited.

For example, the top two picks in the draft, Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf, each signed deals last week that will bring them around $12 million for three years, but that fact was obscured by the publicity over the deals.

After three years, both deals will void. If the two quarterbacks don't play well and the teams don't exercise a buyback, they'll likely play for the one-year tender in the $1.1 million neighborhood the way Kerry Collins is this year in Carolina.

If the teams buy back, Manning gets $38 million for six years and Leaf $24.5 million for five years.

Even those figures weren't enough to satisfy their agents. The deals were announced at $48 million for Manning and $31.5 million for Leaf. That's because some incentives were added to inflate the deal even though the players may never earn those incentives.

Another example of inflating Davis deals is the nine-year $56 million deal that Denver announced for Terrell Davis that supposedly makes him the highest-paid running back in pro football.

He actually gets $14 million for the first three years, which trails Robert Smith's $15 million, Curtis Martin's $15.5 million and Barry Sanders' $18.1 million in the first three years.

With the short shelf life of running backs, no one can be sure they will be effective for more than three years.

The inflated figures, though, accomplish one thing. They get the players signed even if the announced figures will never be reflected in their W-2 statements.

Rubber stamp

The owners are still rubber-stamping commissioner Paul Tagliabue's designs for expansion teams.

Remember all the complaints about Jacksonville and Carolina getting 28 draft picks their first two years? Well, the owners rubber-stamped Tagliabue's plan to give Cleveland the same number of picks, although they're not quite as high as some of the Jacksonville and Carolina selections.

But 28 picks in two years should be enough to give Carmen Policy, armed with that Al Lerner cash, a chance to get the team off to a good start.

Tagliabue seems to take a personal interest in his expansion teams. It will be interesting to see which team Cleveland will play in its home opener in 1999.

Just a guess, but don't be surprised if Cleveland doesn't have to play Pittsburgh in its regular-season home opener as the Ravens will next month. It will be no surprise if Tagliabue gives Cleveland an easier opener.

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