For his dad, ex-Raven Holmes will carry on

ON THE NFL

August 08, 2004|By KEN MURRAY

Turns out Ricky Williams wasn't the only former University of Texas running back who considered bolting from NFL ranks this summer. Unlike Williams, however, Priest Holmes didn't disappear through a rabbit hole and leave his team hanging.

Williams shocked not only the Miami Dolphins but also the rest of the league with his retirement a week before training camp.

Long before that, Holmes, one of the league's premier backs with the Kansas City Chiefs, went to coach Dick Vermeil to express uncertainty over his future.

Holmes, whose 61 touchdowns the past three seasons led the NFL, told Vermeil about some problems he had, foremost of which was the decision of his Army father, Herman Morris, to go to war in Iraq.

"Every player, including myself, thinks there is a sense of freedom that you get [away from football]," Holmes told the Kansas City Star. "You can kind of disappear. You can go to a place where you don't have to be seen, you don't have to be known. There are no more requests."

Vermeil listened, then told Holmes to do what was best for him, that the Chiefs would support him either way.

"I handled it like I would my own son," Vermeil said. "Listened to him. Understood. I think I know Priest pretty well. He's a complex young man. He's a deep thinker. At times, you get a little high or low."

Ultimately, Holmes, who spent his first four NFL seasons with the Ravens, decided to play the 2004 season for his father, who coordinates Army convoys around the Iraqi desert. On NFL Sundays, the Army sets up a large tent with big-screen TVs.

"I know my dad's going to be in there," Holmes, 30, said. "And I know he's going to be watching me on those days. I want to give him something to see."

Dolphins strike back

Meanwhile, the fallout in Miami continues. Once it became apparent that Williams quit after failing a third league drug test and made some blanket accusations, some of his supportive teammates were no longer sympathetic.

Linebacker Zach Thomas was particularly upset that Williams claimed NFL players use cleansing agents to beat drug testing.

"Bringing out the masking agents and putting a question mark on all the guys in this locker room when he's using that and saying there's all kind of guys [doing it], just to justify his mistake? It's wrong," Thomas said. "That's one of the many things I didn't like. I don't think he knew that many guys to know all these guys are drinking gallons [of cleansing agents). ... You need to face it yourself and be professional."

Defensive end Jason Taylor was supportive until he learned about the failed tests, too.

"I was made to look like an idiot when the whole marijuana thing came out," Taylor said. "I did not in any way support illegal drug use or marijuana or whatever it may be. That was really a disappointment for me to see that."

The edge is off

Once, the St. Louis Rams' offense was cutting edge. Through training camp, it looks like a tenuous proposition at best.

Center Dave Wohlabaugh is out with a torn labrum muscle in his right hip, right tackle Kyle Turley says he's got a career-threatening back injury, and running back Marshall Faulk is coming back from yet another surgery on his knee.

Wohlabaugh had surgery in March and was expected to be ready for the start of camp, but hasn't gotten onto the practice field yet. Turley went back to St. Louis for an evaluation of his back after aggravating it in camp. He didn't sound like a happy camper, either.

"I expressed my feelings about it," Turley said. "The idea was to come back out and see how it goes. We did it, and I don't know if that was necessarily the right thing to do."

Faulk reported to camp a year ago at 225 pounds at coach Mike Martz's suggestion, then was able to play in only 11 games because of his knee. This season he checked in at 210.

Fourth and short

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