Phillips to be fined if signed

Back will pay price for past misconduct if he rejoins NFL

July 15, 1999|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

The Ravens, who are considering troubled running back Lawrence Phillips as an addition to their offensive backfield, have yet to decide whether to bring him to Baltimore for a meeting with team officials, although NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue said Phillips will be fined regardless of which club chooses to sign him.

Phillips and his agent, Mitchell Frankel, met for an hour yesterday with Tagliabue at his New York office. According to a statement from the league office, Tagliabue advised Phillips that, as a result of his past misconduct, he will be "subject to a substantial fine this season if he does contract with an NFL club and resume play in the NFL." The amount of the fine will be determined at a later date.

The Ravens are among four teams -- San Francisco, Buffalo and Green Bay are the others -- that have expressed interest in the former Nebraska star, whom the Ravens passed up in the first round of the 1996 draft before selecting offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden as the fourth overall choice.

Frankel reportedly has told Ozzie Newsome, the Ravens' vice president of player personnel, that Phillips favors the Ravens, since he believes he could challenge veterans Priest Holmes and Errict Rhett for a starting job.

Newsome has yet to invite Phillips to meet with a group of officials that also will include team owner Art Modell, president David Modell, coach Brian Billick and Earnest Byner, the Ravens' director of player development.

"We might bring [Phillips] in at some point next week, but that hasn't been decided yet," Newsome said.

Should he sign with the Ravens, Phillips is expected to settle for a one-year, $325,000 contract -- the league minimum salary for a third-year player -- that is loaded with incentives and includes no guaranteed money. The Ravens open their fourth training camp in two weeks at Western Maryland.

The Ravens are intrigued by Phillips after his impressive performance with the Barcelona Dragons in NFL Europe last spring. Phillips broke the single-season rushing record by gaining 1,021 yards on 194 carries.

Phillips' career otherwise has been dominated by off-the-field problems.

Phillips reportedly was fined 50 times in two years with the Rams, who cut him during the 1997 season. Phillips then landed in Miami, where he lasted for two games before getting released.

Then, in July 1998, Phillips was accused of punching a woman in the face at a Miami nightclub after she refused to dance with him. He was sentenced to six months probation after pleading no contest to a misdemeanor battery charge in that case.

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