Ravens wait, see on McCrary

Due for workout today, end could face fines if he becomes AWOL

August 30, 1999|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

As of last night, the absence of defensive end Michael McCrary was still a non-issue for Ravens coach Brian Billick. But if McCrary is a no-show this morning, he'll become the team's only AWOL player.

McCrary, who has one year left on his contract, left the team for his home in Phoenix on Saturday in frustration after contract extension talks broke down Friday afternoon. The player, according to his agent, Michael George, wants a five- or six-year deal that averages $7 million per season and includes a $13 million signing bonus.

The Ravens, according to a team source, have offered McCrary a six-year deal worth $36 million, and increased the signing bonus from $11 million to $11.5 million before negotiations stalled Friday. The same source said the latest proposal from McCrary's agent was six years for $39.5 million, with a $13 million signing bonus.

The team was surprised McCrary walked away with 14 days left in a deadline he imposed for having a new contract.

The player wants a contract in line with the four-year, $32 million agreement recently signed by New York Giants defensive end Michael Strahan, a deal that included a $12 million signing bonus.

The consensus around the league is that Giants general manager Ernie Accorsi caved in to Tony Agnone, Strahan's Baltimore-based agent, in a contract that has had a major impact on the McCrary negotiations.

Since training camp started in late July, Sunday has been a day off for the players. Billick said McCrary is expected to report for a weightlifting session this morning at the team's training facility in Owings Mills. If he continues to be a no-show, he could be assessed a fine of no more than $5,000 per day.

"He was under no obligation except to his teammates to be at the game," Billick said of McCrary's absence in the Ravens' 28-24 win over the Carolina Panthers on Saturday night.

"I have not spoken with him or any other player because Sunday is their day off. I'm not putting my head in the sand, but right now this is a non-issue. Anything would be speculative.

"He is supposed to be here at 7: 40 [this morning]. If he does not make it, that's when we will look into why he is not here and take the appropriate actions. Currently, we're preparing for Friday's game against the New York Giants."

George said a Ravens official left a message for him before Saturday's game, but the two were unable to talk. George said his client was prepared to hold out as long as necessary, but that he is hoping the two sides get together soon. He didn't seem concerned about the fines.

"That's their prerogative," George said. "The further this goes along, the further out of control this gets. We're not trying to force them into anything except a fair-market deal.

"Maybe they don't have the money or can't come up with it. If not, then maybe they should consider a trade. There are a lot of teams that would give you trade value for Mike."

McCrary's disappearance marred a pretty positive showing by the Ravens against the Panthers. The Ravens rolled up 489 offensive yards, were 9-for-17 on third-down conversions and had nearly a seven-minute advantage in time of possession.

The competition for five to six spots on the roster is really starting to heat up, with 14 players catching passes against Carolina.

Justin Armour had a slow start in training camp, but is gradually earning a roster spot. He caught five passes for 70 yards and, at 6 feet 4 and 209 pounds, is the biggest receiving target on the team.

Billick said he was also glad to see Billy Davis (four catches, 65 yards) and Floyd Turner (four, 41) have fine performances with increased playing time.

"This is an extremely hard-working group," the coach said of the receivers. "I'm pleased for Floyd and Billy. Justin Armour is showing a different dynamic that he can add to our offense."

The competition is just as fierce at running back. Top runner Priest Holmes had 34 yards against the Panthers, backup Errict Rhett had 46 and No. 3 halfback Jay Graham had 20 on four attempts. There had been some speculation that Rhett and Graham were competing for the same spot on the roster.

But times have changed.

"Jay hasn't been getting a lot of time, but he's performed well when he's gotten the opportunity along with Rhett," Billick said. "Both of these guys can play on special teams, which gives us a lot of depth."

The race for the kicking job remains a dead heat, Billick said. Scott Bentley converted a 39-yard field goal and Matt Stover was successful on 39- and 38-yarders. Billick is still concerned about Stover's short kickoffs.

"Matt kicked off fairly well, but [short kickoffs] are still a major concern," Billick said. "We can't score and then kick off between the 15- and 20-yard line and then have them return it to the 30- or 40-yard line."

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