Ravens, Staten part ways

Troublesome career over here for safety

Qadry Ismail pursued

April 27, 1999|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

The Ravens withdrew their qualifying offer to Ralph Staten yesterday, signaling the end to the reserve safety's troublesome two-year career in Baltimore. As a result, Staten became an unrestricted free agent and can negotiate with the NFL's 30 other teams.

Staten, 24, had practiced with the team during the first three days of minicamp but was late for a team meeting Sunday morning. Coach Brian Billick met with Staten yesterday morning and told him his services were no longer needed.

In other developments yesterday, receiver Qadry Ismail visited the Ravens' complex and was scheduled to get a physical. The Ravens were making a serious attempt to sign Ismail last night and an announcement could come as early as today. Ismail played for the New Orleans Saints last year, but mostly as a kickoff return specialist, returning 28 kicks for 590 yards. He is expected to challenge for a starting receiver job with the Ravens.

Staten's departure was no surprise. He was one of the team's most talented young players, but had a troubled career dating to his college days at the University of Alabama. Staten was charged with driving while intoxicated on Liberty Road last September, and was charged with a handgun violation Jan. 15 after police allegedly found a 9 mm semiautomatic handgun on the floor of his car after he lost control and skidded off the road.

Staten repeatedly was late or missed meetings with the Ravens. Sunday was the final incident. Staten was unavailable to comment yesterday, and his home phone had been disconnected. The Ravens have just four healthy safeties on the roster.

"Ralph needs a new situation," Billick said. "He needs to get in an environment where he can start anew. Hopefully, he can recognize that he needs to change his approach and that he is capable of becoming a solid NFL player if he applies himself the right way."

For the first time since joining the team, Staten participated in the team's off-season training program. But he looked sluggish during minicamp and at times didn't seem completely focused on assignments.

Billick admitted that Staten had little room for error on and off the field.

"Ralph knew coming in that there were limitations, that he was not coming in on the same basis as some other players," Billick said. "He didn't deserve to come in under those circumstances. Chemistry is very important to the players, coaches and organization. We're going to have a certain tempo here; we're going to have a certain urgency, and we're going to have a certain responsibility."

In a sense, it was the first public show of discipline by Billick. The coach, hired to replace Ted Marchibroda on Jan. 19, said he was not trying to make Staten an example.

"I labored with this last night," Billick said. "I'm not into sending messages or trying to sacrifice a player's career to get a point across. I'm careful about a show of strength. But certainly anytime a person is going to leave the organization for any reason or another, the players need to realize what he represents and why he is gone.

"Now if the players feel I was trying to send a message, then that's something they're going to have to address themselves."

Staten was a seventh-round draft pick, 236th overall, in 1997. He was a linebacker at Alabama, but the Ravens moved him to safety. Staten started the final three games of his rookie season and finished with 30 tackles, intercepted two passes and broke up six more.

Staten started the final three games of last season, too, finishing with 35 tackles and three interceptions.

"It's Billick exercising his authority," said Ravens owner Art Modell. "He [Staten] knew what was at stake and he's gone. I give Brian high marks for acting so decisively. They gave him fair warning. Even before Billick came here, we told [Staten] one more incident and that's it.

"You can't win with people who aren't disciplined. It's too competitive of a business. If they don't get this message, then we'll try Western Union."

Ismail, 28, is the latest player whose career Billick will try to resurrect. The receiver hasn't caught a pass in a regular-season game since the first three weeks of the 1996 season, when he was with the Miami Dolphins.

But Ismail, 6 feet and 196 pounds, played for Billick when both were with the Vikings. His best season was in 1994, when he caught 45 passes for 696 yards and five touchdowns. Ismail also had 32 catches for 597 yards and three touchdowns in 1995.

He can play either the slot or wide-out positions. Billick is also hoping he can tutor some of the Ravens' receivers, who struggled holding onto the ball in minicamp.

"He is a tremendous talent," Billick said of the six-year receiver. "He has speed, size, is strong and can hit that next gear. Beyond the physical abilities, it is important that we have someone who is familiar with our system.

"When Qadry first came to us in Minnesota, he was always thought of as the kid because he had veterans like Jake Reed and Cris Carter to help him along. Now, it will be interesting to see how Qadry is as a mentor."

Pub Date: 4/27/99

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