Siragusa is offside with holdout threat

April 27, 2000|By Ken Rosenthal

There must be a mistake. Ravens defensive tackle Tony Siragusa might consider eating out, but he wouldn't consider holding out, would he?

Not according to one of his agents, Terry Lavenstein, who engaged in lawyer-speak yesterday when asked to describe the stunt that Siragusa is about to pull.

"I don't categorize it as a holdout," Lavenstein said. "Traditionally, when we think of the term 'holdout,' we think of a guy holding out of training camp.

"He's failing to attend minicamp, and his reason for failing to come to minicamp is that he's in a contract dispute with the Baltimore Ravens."

Correction -- Siragusa is under contract to the Ravens, and the three-day mini-camp that begins tomorrow is mandatory under the NFL's collective bargaining agreement.

"This is, as [coach] Brian [Billick] explains it, an extension of training camp," said Ravens vice president of player personnel Ozzie Newsome. "There is an importance to this."

That importance might be relative -- Lavenstein said the bargaining agreement specifies a fine of $1,000 for missing minicamp, and $5,000 a day for missing training camp.

What's more, Siragusa's holdout certainly seems innocuous next to Ray Lewis' "excused absence" -- Billick's words, as if the middle linebacker were going to visit ailing relatives in Atlanta.

But let's compare apples to apples.

Pro Bowl offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden flew in yesterday from California to participate in minicamp, and he is in the exact same position as Siragusa, seeking a contract extension.

"I won't consider holding out," Ogden said. "If I don't have a deal by training camp, I'll just play out my year. Hopefully, something will get done."

That's the professional approach, as opposed to Siragusa's stand, which is the equivalent of a child refusing to eat dinner until his parents give him candy.

On second thought, Siragusa is more like the guy who climbs a television tower to protest the refusal of C-Span to broadcast the Pakistani parliament.

Is anybody listening?

Does anybody care?

Not Siragusa's bosses, who could turn around and sign another defensive tackle for less money if he refuses to honor his contract.

Not his teammates, many of whom are tired of his self-centered act.

And maybe not even his fans, who any moment now will begin to see through his working-class, Jersey-guy image.

It's just a guess, but Baltimore probably isn't going to stage an Elian-style work stoppage in Siragusa's honor.

Generally speaking, three types of players threaten holdouts: First-round draft picks. See Peter Boulware, 1997.

Veterans upset with the "franchise" tag. See Wally Williams, 1998.

Pro Bowl players demanding to re-negotiate. See Michael McCrary, 1999.

Siragusa is none of the above. He's a good player coming off one of his best seasons, but he turns 33 next month, and he has a history of weight and injury problems.

When in shape, he serves a valuable role, tying up offensive linemen and freeing the linebackers to make tackles. But he frequently is removed on third down, when the coaches want more of a pass rush.

Frankly, the Ravens shouldn't even consider giving him an extension, but they've actually made him an offer, one that, in Lavenstein's words, made Siragusa "angry."

Siragusa was in Florida with his family yesterday, unavailable for comment.

"We made a good shot at it, and it just didn't work out," Lavenstein said. "It is what it is, just a difference of opinion."

Lavenstein said that the average salary of the 16 defensive tackles who entered the league with Siragusa in 1990 is $2.98 million.

Sam Adams -- a younger, but less productive player -- will earn an average of $2.4 million in the first two years of his new deal with the Ravens.

But under the team's two-year proposal, Siragusa would receive only a slight increase from his 2000 salary of $1.5 million.

"We've offered him a little bit more money," team president David Modell said. "It wasn't anything that was absurd or ridiculous. It would have gotten him from an average [salary] standpoint a little bit closer to Sam's deal.

"When you bring a guy in from the outside [Adams], and this guy [Siragusa] has already made a contribution to your team, it's the fair thing to do. But I guess fairness is in the eye of the beholder."

Modell said he would be "angry" if Siragusa failed to appear tomorrow, but the Ravens could always turn their attention to a potentially intriguing replacement -- unrestricted free agent Gilbert Brown.

It's no secret that Brown's play in Green Bay declined markedly the past two seasons because he was overweight. But Billick is familiar with Brown from his days in Minnesota, when he tried to devise game plans to keep the massive nose tackle from disrupting the Vikings' high-powered offense.

Brown, coming off arthroscopic knee surgery, reportedly has weighed as much as 360 pounds this off-season. But he currently is trying to get back into shape at the Duke University Diet and Fitness Center in Durham, N.C.

Where, then, is Siragusa's leverage?

The Ravens signed Adams to replace the suspended Larry Webster. They're projecting Lional Dalton and Martin Chase into their rotation. And they could always find another tackle.

If Siragusa wants to be considered a latter-day Art Donovan, then he should start acting like the great Baltimore Colts Hall of Famer.

Donovan would be in minicamp tomorrow, honoring his contract.

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