Ravens discipline transgressions

OWINGS MILLS - The latest twist in the saga of Baltimore Ravens franchise player Chris McAlister unfolded Monday when the team imposed more discipline on the wayward cornerback.

McAlister was fined the maximum amount allowed under the league's collective bargaining agreement for violating team rules while in Southern California. Those infractions led to the defensive starter being benched and absent from the sidelines for the Ravens' decisive 24-10 victory Sunday over the San Diego Chargers. The consequences follow McAlister reportedly breaking a 9 p.m. curfew and skipping a team meeting days before kickoff. Ravens coach Brian Billick said McAlister will start against the Kansas City Chiefs and return to practice Wednesday.

Further transgressions, Billick warned, will be dealt with more severely as he will have increased latitude under league rules to fine or suspend McAlister. "I have options available to me from this point that will be spelled out very clearly to Chris regarding suspensions and all the things that go with that," Billick said. "I believe Chris is remorseful about the position he put his teammates in. That's something he's going to have to deal with on an individual basis in terms of regaining the trust of his teammates."

Because McAlister, 26, was ruled inactive and not technically suspended, it's believed he will not be docked his game check of roughly $350,000. Under the franchise tag, he's being paid $5.962 million this season.

It's unclear if McAlister actually met with Billick on Monday, as scheduled.

According to the NFL Players' Association, which was unaware of the fine Monday afternoon, McAlister should be fined $1,000 for missing a curfew or a team meeting under Article VIII, Section I of the collective bargaining agreement. It's unknown whether he was fined for each violation of team rules.

"It's an internal matter," Billick said. "Those that are anxious for a pound of flesh more have to understand that again we have specific constraints."

If the Ravens were to invoke the rulebook and label McAlister a repeat offender after fining him $5,000 for missing a day of training camp after he was charged with driving under the influence in Virginia, he could be subject to increased fines.

Any fine over $4,000 that's filed under a clause dealing with conduct detrimental to the team has to be filed with the Players' Association.

McAlister received a letter from the club in August informing him that he had been fined for his unexcused absence. Repeat offenders's fines can be doubled and tripled along with the option of suspension, according to the league.

"I'm going to tell you where you need to be and it's your responsibility as a team member to be there, and, with the exception of one individual, that's exactly what this team did," Billick said. "If I tell you the curfew is at 9, then be in at 9, and 99.9 percent of the players did just that. The penalties are what they are."

This wasn't the first off-field situation for the native of Pasadena, Calif. McAlister had a possession of marijuana charge dropped for a lack of evidence a few years ago. The summer after the team's Super Bowl win, McAlister and ex-Raven Clarence Love reportedly engaged in a loud argument with airplane personnel in Las Vegas and were escorted off the plane.

Several teammates, coaches and team officials expressed frustration and anger about this incident. McAlister was at the team hotel on Saturday and appeared unconcerned about the potential distraction he had created. "Trust is a unique thing," Billick said. "Chris and I will work with that."

The Ravens have a decision to make regarding McAlister's contract status. They could sign him to a long-term contract extension before he becomes an unrestricted free agent, or designate him their franchise player again. That would include a 20-percent increase from this year's salary, though.

General manager Ozzie Newsome has said the team will attempt to negotiate an extension with agent Mitch Frankel. Frankel didn't return a telephone message Monday.

McAlister has 10 tackles and no interceptions this fall after saying he would prove he's deserving of Pro Bowl recognition and take a more professional approach.

Before the Ravens' departed Maryland to avoid the wrath of Hurricane Isabel, McAlister playfully said in a television interview: "This is about business, not fun."

Now, he has some ground to make up with teammates. "We're all family in here and families stick together," veteran cornerback Corey Fuller said. "We've got to work through it."

Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.

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