Billick: No McCrary, no talks

Ravens suspend negotiations, begin fines in end's walkout

Focus is on Giants, opener

Pro Bowl player says: `This is about business'

August 31, 1999|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

The Ravens began leveling fines on Pro Bowl defensive end Michael McCrary yesterday after the team declared him absent without an acceptable excuse, according to coach Brian Billick.

The fines could range up to $5,000 a day for McCrary, who still has one year for $1.9 million left on his contract. McCrary left for his home in Phoenix, Ariz., on Saturday in frustration after contract extension talks broke down Friday afternoon. The player wants a five- or six-year deal that averages $7 million per season and includes a $13 million signing bonus.

The Ravens 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.

Billick said there will be no negotiations until McCrary returns. The coach met with the players yesterday and was irritated that McCrary did not call to inform him he was leaving. He also said McCrary's decision was based on self and not team interest.

"I've tried to deal with the players with respect. I've tried to treat them like men in everything we've done," said Billick. "I like to be dealt with [showing] the same respect. We've made it real clear we want Michael here. He's a major part of this football team."

"I love the game, the fans of Baltimore and the city," said McCrary. "But this is about business and how unhappy I am with the way they have handled the negotiations."

Billick sounded optimistic, but still perturbed.

"I have no doubt in my mind -- none whatsoever -- that a deal will get done. But we're not going to negotiate with him while he's not in camp," he said. "If it doesn't turn out that way, we're going to show up in St. Louis and play [the season opener] on the 12th. Period. End of report. Move on."

But Billick wasn't finished yet.

"I'm not comfortable with any player under contract that is not here," he said.

When asked if he missed McCrary's speed coming off the edge, Billick replied: "I know it's only preseason, but we're 3-0 and the guys are playing hard and he hasn't taken a snap yet. He is not here right now, he is not a part of what we're doing right now. My focus, and that of our team, is to get ready for this Friday's game against the Giants in this short week."

If McCrary doesn't play this season, the Ravens still retain the rights to the final year of his contract. They also still have the option of putting the franchise tag on him after the final year of his contract, which would force him to stay for the 2000 season with the Ravens paying him the average of the top five players at his position.

The Ravens reportedly were about $3 million away from the last proposal by McCrary's agent, Michael George, and were surprised he walked away with nearly two weeks left in the negotiating process. McCrary had said he wanted an extension by Sept. 12 or he would enter the free-agent market after the 1999 season.

Several agents interviewed yesterday, who declined to be named, also questioned McCrary's tactics.

"Either you don't go in at all or you go in late, but never start and pull out," said one agent. "That doesn't do either side any good. Bad move."

McCrary was still at home in Arizona yesterday. Despite Sunday being the players day off, McCrary said he called Billick Sunday night after speaking with defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis, who recommended he call.

When asked how long he was prepared to sit out, McCrary replied: "I have no comment on that. Right now I'm doing a lot of things not to think about the situation."

When told that the Ravens weren't willing to reopen negotiations until McCrary returned to the team, George said: "Oh well, we expected that. We have stated our position several times."

Pub Date: 8/31/99

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