McNair grievance pending

OWINGS MILLS -- As the holding pattern continues in the Baltimore Ravens' pursuit of quarterback Steve McNair, his grievance against the Tennessee Titans could be heard within two weeks.

NFL Players Association general counsel Richard Berthelsen confirmed Tuesday that an expedited hearing in the McNair case will be heard May 16 in Nashville, Tenn., at the Titans' training complex in front of New York arbitrator John Ferrick.

Cook's agent has asked for McNair to be released as a condition of the grievance, but it's considered unlikely that an arbitrator would punish the Titans that severely even if he rules in favor of the NFL's 2003 Co-Most Valuable Player.

At issue is the Titans' decision to bar McNair from working out at their training complex, citing liability concerns over his $9 million salary and $23.46 million salary cap figure.

"Fairness cries out for resolution of this quickly," Berthelsen said in a telephone interview. "We're claiming a breach of his contract. Steve has a right to be with his teammates to prepare for the season.
"Our statement to the arbitrator would be that the Titans can't have it both ways. They can't hold his rights and, at the same time, refuse to employ him by not allowing him to come to work."

Meanwhile, McNair's agent, Bus Cook, said there was nothing new to report in his negotiations with the Ravens. Cook has been authorized to talk with Baltimore regarding a contract extension for McNair and it's believed that the two sides are on the same page for the framework of a deal.

"There's nothing really to say and I'm pretty much only talking to the Ravens and the Titans about Steve at this point," Cook said.

Nothing is likely to happen, though, in terms of McNair joining the Ravens until compensation is worked out between Baltimore general manager Ozzie Newsome and Tennessee general manager Floyd Reese, or McNair is released. Newsome's offer of a fifth-round pick in this year's draft was rejected as Tennessee was seeking a fourth-round pick.

Baltimore is prepared to wait until late July when the Titans, who are only $500,000 under the salary cap limit, will need to shed McNair's salary to sign their draft picks, including Texas quarterback Vince Young.

However, that would mean not having McNair available for minicamps, including full team practice sessions scheduled for May 30 through June 1 and a mandatory camp set for June 6 through June 8.
Baltimore is likely to receive fourth, fifth and/or sixth round compensatory selections for the free agent losses of Tony Weaver, Maake Kemoeatu, Chester Taylor and Dave Zastudil.

As for the case, the Titans decided to bar McNair on April 3 in a decision believed to be pushed by owner Bud Adams.

The case has been delayed once already because the Titans responded to the claim and denied factual allegations. Berthelsen said he received a second letter from the Titans that acknowledged McNair is prohibited from working out at the facility because of the liability concern.

The union and McNair are contending that this decision violates his contract and the collective bargaining agreement. The relationship between McNair and the Titans has deteriorated.

"Steve has to worry about his liability, too," Berthelsen said. "He could get hurt working out on his own and be without a job and a salary. It's a matter of fairness. We feel they're in breach and that's what we'll argue before the arbitrator."

NOTES: Former Ravens defensive end Rob Burnett and former Baltimore Colts linebacker Stan White were announced as the analysts for WBAL Radio. Channel 11 sports anchor Gerry Sandusky is the play-by-play man. WBAL's Steve Davis will host the pre-game and post-game shows, and sideline reporting duties will be rotated between several people during the station's first season as broadcast rights holder. … The Ravens received high grades for their 10-player draft headlined by Oregon defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, the 12th overall pick. ESPN analyst Mel Kiper gave Baltimore a B-plus with The Sporting News and CBS Sportsline deeming the picks worthy of a pair of A-minuses.

Aaron Wilson writes Ravens Insider and the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.

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