Ravens starting defensive tackle Larry Webster spent four hours yesterday before NFL officials in New York appealing his recent suspension for violation of the league's substance and alcohol abuse policy.
Webster's lawyer, Michael Baird, said the proceedings went well and he expected a decision from the league within the next few weeks. Webster,31, tested positive from a urine sample administered by the league on Feb. 23. The league notified him 30 days later that he was suspended because of suspected cocaine use.
Baird has adamantly denied that his client used cocaine and was expected to introduce into evidence yesterday a toxicology report from Associated Pathologists Laboratories in Las Vegas that showed Webster tested negative for amphetamines, opiates, phencyclidine (PCP) and marijuana. The test, conducted on March 14, was done on hair follicles as opposed to urine samples.
"We were pretty happy with the procedure, and we're confident with the evidence we presented," Baird said.
Webster, an Elkton native and former University of Maryland standout, did not return calls yesterday. According to a team source, Webster has told team officials he was taking a medication that produced the positive test.
Webster has tested positive for marijuana or alcohol on at least three other occasions. His last suspension was for the entire 1996 season after he admitted to consuming a beer at his bachelor party two nights before he was married. Players are not allowed to drink any alcohol after one violation.
Webster, a full-time starter for the first time last season, could be suspended for more than a year if he loses the appeal. Team officials also plan to waive him if he loses, according to a team source.
"It usually takes a couple of weeks," Ravens majority owner Art Modell said. "They like to mull it over, but we'll hear soon enough. I hope he gets another chance, but I'm tired of people and these problems. ... You know, society is out of control, not just the NFL."
The Ravens would like to know Webster's status as soon as possible, especially with the reopening of free agency tomorrow. The team signed Webster to a three-year deal worth $5 million on Feb. 15, which was to include a $1.5 million signing bonus. But Webster has received only $400,000 and was to get the remainder in mid-June.
The Ravens signed former Seattle Seahawks tackle Sam Adams in April shortly after reporting Webster's suspension. Webster's status also could have an impact on the stalled negotiations with fellow starting defensive tackle Tony Siragusa, who chose to miss a recent mandatory minicamp.