The suspension, announced by the team yesterday, is the result of a third positive test during Webster's five-year NFL career. Webster, 27, an Elkton native and former University of Maryland standout, signed with the Cleveland Browns as a free agent on May 4, 1995.
He was suspended nearly three months later for six games of the 1995 regular season after a second positive test. Initial positive tests are not disclosed by the NFL.
Webster did not return phone calls yesterday.
"I'm saddened by it," said Ravens owner Art Modell. "I feel sad for Larry, but rules are rules. I hope he sees himself clear and straightens it out. We stand in readiness to help him at a later date.
"He knew what was at stake. He is an intelligent young man. Sadly, he saw fit to violate what he should not have violated."
Webster, 6 feet 5 and 300 pounds, will need to petition league commissioner Paul Tagliabue for reinstatement before being allowed to return next season. He won't be allowed to work out or practice with the team for the rest of this season.
Webster will not receive any of his $400,000 in base salary this season, but he already has been paid bonuses totaling $400,000 for attending recent mini and training camps. That bonus money will count against the team's salary cap.
Webster was the Ravens' biggest body up the middle and a starter when training camp opened nearly five weeks ago. But he was demoted to practicing on both the second and third teams nearly 2 1/2 weeks ago behind Tim Goad and later Mike Frederick.
According to sources close to the team, the demotion came when Ravens officials first learned from the league that Webster's tests were positive.
Webster missed practices for what coach Ted Marchibroda called "personal reasons" on Aug. 8, and a defensive assistant said he was just trying to get the previously injured Frederick more work when asked about Webster's demotion.
Webster was at a hearing appealing the test results on Aug. 8, according to the sources.
"I talked to Larry at lunch time, and he is real down," said guard Jeff Blackshear, who roomed with Webster during minicamp and training camp. "I think Larry thought he might return this season, and I hope he gets the opportunity. It's a real loss for the team, and my heart goes out to him."
Webster's loss leaves the team with only six defensive linemen on the roster, but free agent James Jones, a 6-2, 290-pound defensive tackle from the Denver Broncos, was expected to arrive in Baltimore last night, and may take a physical as early as this morning.
Jones was the Browns' third-round pick five years ago and played for the team from 1991 through 1994 before signing with the Broncos last season, where he made $900,000 in base
Jones' agent, Jack Wirth, has said he is looking for a two-year deal worth $1.6 million. The Ravens are $524,000 under the salary cap with Webster's departure.
"They want him to pass a physical before we talk contract," said Wirth. "I don't see anything wrong with that because James has no physical problems."
Said Ozzie Newsome, the Ravens' vice president of player personnel: "I guess the opportunity for James to come in and play right away has increased. We were bringing him in before we learned of Larry's situation, but now everything has become accelerated."
Webster's suspension drew the full gamut of emotions from his teammates yesterday.
"When a guy has a problem like that, he needs to get some help," said quarterback Vinny Testaverde after being told of the news. "It's a problem for a team to lose a talent like that, but it's more important to see him get straightened out and on with his life."
Goad said: "You have to take it on the chin. He was a good friend of mine and I'm sorry it happened to him, but it's something that happens. . . . It was his fault, so he doesn't have any excuses. I wish Larry the best, but right now we've got to concentrate on the season and keep moving on."
Webster's former coach at Maryland, Joe Krivak, was stunned. He had visited with Webster recently in training camp, and the two talked about Webster's June 29 marriage and how the couple was looking to buy a new house, preferably in Hagerstown.
Webster was the Miami Dolphins' third-round pick in 1992 and was a frequent starter during the 1993 and 1994 seasons. Krivak, now quarterbacks coach at Virginia, said he knew of no substance-abuse problems for Webster at Maryland.
"He didn't have any problems at all," Krivak said. "He had to take the drug tests periodically, like everyone else. I feel sorry for the youngster, and hope he does well with it and gets his life back on track.
"When I saw him in camp, he said things were going so well."
Pub Date: 8/21/96
NFL drug policy
Players enter program due to:
1. Positive urinalysis for drugs of abuse;
2. Medical director determination based on behavioral assessment;
Stage 1: Evaluation and treatment
1. Evaluation by psychiatrist and mandatory treatment contract.
2. Failure to cooperate or failure to comply with treatment contract brings three-game fine.
3. All players advance to Stage 2.
Stage 2: Drug testing/discipline
1. Urine tests -- up to 10 per month for two years at direction of NFL medical adviser.
2. First positive test -- four-game fine (four-week suspension if fined in Stage 1).
3. Second positive test -- four-game suspension (six-week suspension if fined in Stage 1) and advancement to Stage 3.
4. Failure to provide a sample is considered a positive test.
Stage 3: Drug testing/banishment
1. Urine tests -- up to 10 per month for three years at direction of NFL medical adviser.
2. Any positive test results in banishment for a minimum of one year.