Sams decisions under scrutiny - more camp notes

OWINGS MILLS – B.J. Sams' timing and judgment on the field weren't in question Tuesday as the Baltimore Ravens' diminutive return specialist expertly caught punts at the team's indoor training facility.It was Sams' set of choices off the field one day earlier that drew the scrutiny of team and law enforcement officials.

Sams was arrested early Monday morning on driving under the influence charges by a Maryland State Police trooper, reportedly registering a 0.9 on a breathalyzer test in a state where 0.8 is the legal limit. He was pulled over on I-83 North south of Ruxton Road for driving his 2000 Chevrolet Tahoe 89 mph in a 55 mph zone.

The media-shy Sams, 24, wasn't made available for interviews, and team officials said his lawyer advised his client not to comment on his arrest. Sams was also charged with negligent driving and speeding.

"We'll have to wait and see what the actual circumstances are, we've got to let the process work itself out," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "I kind of get tired of having to say that all the time. We're not going to prejudge. He didn't violate any team rules because he was on his own."

Since players had the night off and Billick's liberal training camp policy allows veterans like Sams to spend the night at home, there is technically no curfew or violation of team rules. A year ago, Billick said there were no incidents.

"These are grown men, I can't lock them up and put them away 24-7," Billick said. "He had free time. I don't want to comment until we know exactly what happened. There are legal liabilities here.

"But anytime someone has free time they had better act responsibly. You can't do it any other way."

Billick sounded fairly exasperated to have to address yet another legal issue involving one of his players.

Between running back Jamal Lewis' federal prison sentence for a cocaine conspiracy plea bargain, linebacker Terrell Suggs' acquittal on felony aggravated assault charges and cornerback Samari Rolle's plea bargain in a domestic violence case involving his wife, it's been a full court docket this year alone for the Ravens.

"The process is what I'm tired of talking about sometimes," Billick said. "Sometimes, the process works against you and sometimes it works for you. At some point, everyone has to take responsibility for their actions."

Police officials emphasized that Sams was cooperative and polite. After processing at the Golden Ring Barracks in Essex and signing his citations, which is not an admission of guilt, Sams was released at 4 a.m. Monday morning and was driven from home by a female companion who hadn't been drinking.

Team officials said that Sams was apologetic about the arrest, and Billick said he addressed the issue with the entire team.

"We are all rushing judgment here a little bit," Billick said. "Let's make sure due process works. Do you want me to pull out my, 'You're not qualified to try this' line again?"

Sams set a Ravens single-season franchise record last season with 1,826 combined return yards, including a franchise record 1,251 kickoff return yards. The 5-foot-10, 185-pound former McNeese State standout registered the second-most punt return yards in franchise history with 575, including two punt returns for touchdowns.

However, Sams didn't play Saturday against the Atlanta Falcons because of a nagging hamstring strain. The timing for the arrest and the injury are both bad.

Although special teams coordinator Gary Zauner called Sams "our best return guy," the Ravens are auditioning multiple return candidates and keeping an eye on what's available outside the current roster.

That list includes Patrick Johnson, who returned kickoffs 16 and 22 yards at the Georgia Dome, along with Mark Clayton, Randy Hymes and Tellis Redmon on punt returns. Zauner said the team would also consider Derrick Mason, Ed Reed and Deion Sanders as potential punt returners.

"We're trying everybody," Zauner said. "Deion definitely wants to do it. Deion is all anxious to get back there. That first game is a night game and on television, right?"

NOTES: Because of inclement weather in Westminster that soaked the fields at McDaniel College, the Ravens moved practice to their indoor training facility. It was a generally intense, focused workout. "This is the kind of practice you want to have," Billick said. "It was outstanding, probably as good a practice as we've had in a long time." … Safety Ed Reed (knee) and tight end Darnell Dinkins (shoulder) returned to practice. … Todd Heap, Musa Smith, Alan Ricard, Adalius Thomas, Dan Cody and Gary Gibson didn't practice. Thomas performed a few drills. Cody (knee) is off crutches. ... Mark Clayton was limited as a precautionary measure. … Rookie linebacker Tyson Smith was injured in contact drills and was later seen limping with his leg wrapped up. … The Ravens waived rookie punter Jesse Ohliger and signed veteran Owen Pochman to compete with kickoff specialist Rhys Lloyd. Pochman has prior service with the San Francisco 49ers, New York Giants, Arizona Cardinals and Buffalo Bills. … The field goal team failed to get off a kick before the clock expired in a two-minute drill, drawing the ire of Zauner. "It'll cost you a game," Zauner shouted.

In addition to being a long time contributor to RavensInsider, Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.

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