McAlister apologizes for violating team rules

OWINGS MILLS - Surrounded by a phalanx of microphones and cameras, Baltimore Ravens franchise player Chris McAlister issued an apology for his multiple violations of team rules during a trip to Southern California. His starting job at cornerback remained intact as he returned to practice Wednesday.

This sequence of disciplinary action was caused by McAlister reportedly breaking curfew Thursday night and skipping a team meeting Friday morning prior to the Ravens' 24-10 win Sunday over the San Diego Chargers. The consequences for McAlister: being benched, fined the maximum amount allowed, lectured and sternly warned by Ravens coach Brian Billick that another transgression will be dealt with more severely. "I've already apologized, and I'm still apologizing to all of my teammates for what happened last weekend," said McAlister, whose salary this season is $5.962 million. "As far as the fans, I'm sorry for those I did let down. "This is the hardest part of the job, but it's something that has to be done. This is expected of you as a professional, but it's not something to look forward to."

 McAlister, 26 didn't refer to notes or a prepared statement during his brief interview session, but spoke in a monotone. He declined to elaborate when pressed three times on what happened on the West Coast, or address a recent pattern of off-field issues that includes an arrest for driving under the influence charge in Virginia last month. McAlister missed a day of training camp after being released from jail and was fined $5,000 by the club for that violation of team rules. "I'm extremely confident that he understands what his responsibilities are and what the price is if he doesn't live up to his responsibilities," Billick said. "It is a hefty price, make no mistake. .. Anybody that has kids understands what I'm dealing with right now." 

Before ending the interview to attend a meeting, McAlister spoke about moving past the incident to focus on Sunday's game against the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs. He wouldn't detail what happened in San Diego, or why. "I'm not responding to any more questions about that," McAlister said. "I'm on Kansas City. It's beyond that. Time is not going to wait for anybody. I have to move forward." 

McAlister's teammates appeared to welcome him back, although several expressed disappointment and anger last weekend at a situation that caused free safety Gary Baxter to shift to cornerback on scant notice. "Chris walked up to me, looked me in the eye and the first thing he said was he was sorry," linebacker Ray Lewis said. "I said, `Hey, we all make mistakes,' and I gave him a hug. "I told Chris there's only so much you can do without God, no matter how you want to look at it. Just give him a chance to work in your life. Everything else will fall into place." 

This season, McAlister has 11 tackles, one pass deflection, two fines and no interceptions. The 10th overall pick of the 1999 NFL Draft hasn't been selected to a Pro Bowl yet three games into his fifth season, but is regarded as one of the more physically-gifted corners in the league. Cornerback Corey Fuller was part of the defense that intercepted Chargers quarterback Drew Brees three times to withstand 45 pass attempts without McAlister. 

The Ravens (2-1) will definitely need all their top defenders available for this weekend's home game as Kansas City (3-0) averages 36.0 points per game. When it comes to McAlister, Fuller said it was a time to offer support and counsel to a teammate. "We can't be pointing our fingers," Fuller said. "He might be going through something. If he's going through something it's time for us to rally around him and support him. That's just the bottom line." 

McAlister has 244 career tackles, 11 interceptions, 85 pass deflections. He also set an NFL mark for longest play with his 107-yard return of a missed field goal last season against the Denver Broncos. In terms of fans' reaction, Fuller said he understands why, externally, people might not be so sympathetic to a professional athlete. Particularly, after one has a brush with the law or repeated issue with discipline. "People always look at us by our salaries," Fuller said. "They don't get to know us. A lot of times as a young man growing up we've been pampered. It takes a while to get adjusted to this lifestyle. "No one wants to accept that because we make $2 or $3 million. We've been taught all our lives to be the tough one, so you don't let anybody know when you're crying out. When I see a brother crying out, I'm going to help him."

Aaron Wilson writes for The Carroll County Times

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