Billick reserves judgment on McAlister

<p>OWINGS MILLS - Baltimore Ravens coach Brian Billick avidly peruses the Internet and newspapers in a search that goes beyond mere curiosity. Billick seeks and often finds examples of athletes in trouble with the law and presents them to his football team as cautionary tales.</p>

Although Billick was cautious Wednesday in his comments regarding cornerback Chris McAlister being arrested and charged with driving under the influence early Monday morning in Virginia, he admitted that the situation did trouble him. 

"I'm concerned that young people sometimes don't use the best judgment in regards to themselves and this organization," Billick said. "The lessons you learn from your own are more substantial than anything. "I'm constantly putting what goes on around the league in front of our players and saying, 'This happened outside of our team, will you learn from this?' 

Anybody that doesn't learn from this situation on this team because it's so close to home is just not paying attention." McAlister, the Ravens' franchise player, was pulled over early Monday morning by a state trooper after being clocked at 86 mph in a 55 mph speed-limit zone, a Virginia state police spokesman said. McAlister refused to take a Breathalyzer test, so the officer conducted a field sobriety test after detecting an odor of alcohol on the starting cornerback's breath, McAlister was arrested at 2:36 a.m. Monday morning without incident and was cooperative, the spokesman said. The starting defensive back returned to the team hotel in Westminster by Monday evening. He missed practice for personal reasons, according to Billick. McAlister declined interview requests Wednesday as the team advised him not to comment on the case because he hadn't retained a lawyer yet. The 1999 first-round draft pick has discussed the matter with Billick and general manager Ozzie Newsome. Billlick stressed that he was reserving judgment until he has more facts available to him about the arrest, saying he hadn't seen the police report yet. "We need to wait and hear what all the facts are both from a personal standpoint, a team standpoint and certainly from a legal standpoint," Billick said. 

Under the league's collective bargaining agreement, McAlister will be allowed to play. If McAlister was convicted or plead guilty, that would automatically trigger a mandatory evaluation by a doctor and place him in the first stage of the league's substance-abuse program. A second offense would require a four-game suspension. A third offense entails a one-year suspension. The league's substance-abuse policies are subject to confidentiality rules. Under NFL bylaws, the Ravens aren't allowed to punish McAlister beyond whatever may be handed down by the court system or the league. "Both the organization and the league has a structure for this and we support that structure," Billick said. Teammates said they were supportive of McAlister, but weren't inclined to broach the subject with him unless he iniated a conversation. "Chris is a grown man," defensive end Adalius Thomas said. "He has to handle his situation in his own way and he knows how to handle it. "You always mind your own business. If it doesn't affect you, you don't worry about it unless someone asks you for help." 

In terms of McAlister being out so late a day after the Ravens' 13-10 victory over the Atlanta Falcons with a 9:30 a.m. practice scheduled at McDaniel College, Billick said the players were on their own time. He said McAlister wasn't due at camp until 7:30 a.m. "Young people stay up late," Billick said. "It's ill-advised, at times, but when you have your time off you'll do with it as you please." McAlister signed a one-year franchise tender of $5.962 million, the average of the top five cornerback salaries, upon reporting to camp. He has been bold in his ambition about earning the Pro Bowl acclaim that has eluded him despite career totals of 244 tackles, 11 interceptions and 85 pass deflections. As the Ravens prepared for Saturday's preseason game against the Washington Redskins, nothing appeared to have changed about the football team, or McAlister. "It's business as usual," center Mike Flynn said. "Everybody has their own lives. I think Chris will be fine."

Aaron Wilson writes for The Carroll County Times

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