Billick: Ravens have no problem with McAlister

OWINGS MILLS – Baltimore Ravens coach Brian Billick said that franchise player Chris McAlister's contract dispute and continued absence from the training complex aren't indicators of any estrangement with the team.<br>

McAlister has yet to sign his one-year, $7.1 million tender and didn't attend any off-season activities as the Ravens concluded their final minicamp Thursday. His agent, Mitch Frankel, characterized contract discussions as very far apart as the two parties entered a league-mandated moratorium on negotiations that ends July 15. 

Although the Pro Bowl cornerback has a history of off-field issues, Billick emphasized that the team will not use his past against him during discussions for a long-term contract.

"At no point, has there been or no point now, in regards to the contract, has Chris' character or what he does off the field been an issue," Billick said. "Let's keep in mind that Chris McAlister has never been convicted of anything. 

"There's nothing in the negotiations in any way, shape or form that is reflective of our concern that way. There is not going to be anything in the contract that addresses off-field issues in any manner because that would be inappropriate."

Last season, McAlister, 27, was arrested and charged with driving under the influence in Virginia during training camp and missed a day of practice. He was fined for the unexcused absence by the team, but the charges were subsequently dropped by authorities. 

McAlister was charged with misdemeanor possession of marijuana four years ago, and those charges were dropped.

Prior to the 2001 season, McAlister and former cornerback Clarence Love argued with an airplane stewardess and were escorted off a Las Vegas flight.

Last season, McAlister was benched for the San Diego Chargers game after violating curfew and missing a practice days prior to kickoff. 

The imposing 1999 first-round draft pick apologized to the team for his behavior and went on to shut down elite receivers such as Torry Holt, Chad Johnson, Rod Smith, Jimmy Smith and Terrell Owens en route to earning his first Pro Bowl appearance.

When asked if he was concerned that McAlister had accused the team of holding his past against him during talks amidst running back Jamal Lewis, outside linebacker Terrell Suggs and cornerback Corey Fuller facing two felonies apiece, Billick said: "We do not have a concern that way. That is a non-issue for us. We are always concerned with our players, and Chris has had some things in the past that he has to be aware of. He has to move on and be a professional. We have gone through some instances and he finished out the season magnificent for us last year. It's not brought up in negotiations."

Lewis faces federal drug conspiracy charges in Atlanta, and no trial date has been set. Suggs is facing two counts of felony aggravated assault in Arizona and has a Sept. 9 court date. Fuller has been charged with felony gambling and firearm offenses in Florida and has been assigned an Aug. 23 trial date.

"I don't really care what Chris said about other people's situations," Suggs said. "Maybe he shouldn't have talked about that, but the bottom line is he's a great player and we need him to be here with us. I want him back with our defense."

McAlister is seeking a long-term contract that approaches the seven-year, $63 million deal inked by Denver Broncos All-Pro cornerback Champ Bailey. That contract included an $18 million signing bonus. Bailey has been selected to four Pro Bowls.

"We believe that Chris McAlister is the best cornerback in the National Football League," Billick said. "We concede that and we told Chris that. The question becomes: What do you pay the best cornerback in the NFL?

"The issue is not our appreciation of what Chris is and what he represents. There is a dollar figure. His side has a perspective. We have a perspective and we will work our way through it."

Billick said that the uncompleted contract of Oakland Raiders All-Pro cornerback Charles Woodson, another franchise player, has hindered talks for McAlister.

"Part of the problem with negotiations quite frankly is that the barometer that they want to use isn't necessarily done," Billick said. "Charles Woodson is an example. That contract is not done, it may not get done, and that is a little bit of an inhibitor."

Billick said the Ravens can afford to carry McAlister's $7.1 million contract against the salary cap. He stressed that he's not worried about McAlister's conditioning, and maintained that the team has a good, working relationship with Frankel.

Frankel didn't return a telephone call seeking comment.

The head coach also noted that McAlister isn't allowed to participate in workouts until he signs his one-year tender. The Ravens retain exclusive negotiating rights, though.

"If Chris chose to come and work out today, he would not be allowed on the field because he has not signed a tender offer," Billick said. "It's a contractual business decision. Technically, he's not under contract. 

"He can't go anywhere, so he's not a holdout. He is not a member of the team officially until he signs that contract."

NOTE: All-Pro offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden didn't attend the final day of a voluntary minicamp.

Ravens Insider Top Stories