In what was an otherwise idyllic day for Brian Billick, the Ravens' coach learned the extent of contract discontent on the part of four players last night.
No-shows at yesterday's reporting deadline for training camp included first-round draft pick Travis Taylor, third-round pick Chris Redman, defensive tackle Tony Siragusa and exclusive-rights punter Kyle Richardson.
For Taylor and Redman it's a question of when. For Siragusa and Richardson, it's a question of why.
"We're very confident it will get done," Billick said of Taylor's contract. "Unfortunately, I don't know that it will be done by today or tomorrow. It looks like a strong possibility he could miss a practice or two. It was avoidable, in my opinion.
"If he's going to miss a practice or two, so be it. It's going to hurt us as a team and it's going to hurt Travis. That's the way it is."
Taylor, the 10th pick in the draft and third wide receiver taken, was waiting on negotiations between his agent, Steve Weinberg, and Pat Moriarty, the Ravens' director of football administration.
Those negotiations got off to a late start yesterday when Weinberg, who was in Ashburn, Va., on Saturday negotiating the contract of Washington Redskins running back Stephen Davis, didn't arrive in Owings Mills until nearly 2 p.m.
Those negotiations are expected to continue today.
Redman, a Louisville quarterback drafted in the third round, had voiced optimism he would be in camp on time. But his negotiations, conducted by David Dunn, on a three-year contract broke down as well.
"It's not in Chris' best interests for him not to be here," Billick said. "He knows that. They're doing everything they can to get it done, and it will get done."
It was a day that started with great portent for Billick.
"I've been looking forward to this day for a few months now," he said. "It occurred to me when I was driving up here [to Westminster] today, this is as enjoyable a day as I've had in a long time. I got up, had coffee and a Krispy Kreme doughnut with my wife [Nancy], got a jog in with the dog around the reservoir, took a dive into the pool."
It was later, after the news of the four no-shows, though, that he got drenched.
Richardson, a fourth-year veteran, declined to sign the Ravens' one-year tender of $358,000. Siragusa, wanting a raise on his $1.5 million salary for 2000, refused a standing Ravens offer of $2 million for this season.
Siragusa's agent, Terry Lavenstein, said the hang-up is not the salary cap, but a larger issue.
"The issue is Tony being part of a team headed for the playoffs, and are they going to go to the playoffs without him?" Lavenstein said.
Billick said that he is willing to take that risk."[If Siragusa doesn't report], then we're going to go to battle tomorrow with the players we have and I have every confidence that we'll be able to hold up quite well," the coach said.
"He's a valued member of this team. We'd love to have him here. If he chooses not to be here, we've got to look at it not unlike if a player gets hurt. We're not going to fold up our tents, we're not going to see if we can postpone our season. It gives an opportunity for someone to step up and see if they can fill the void."
The first opportunity goes to Lional Dalton, a third-year defensive tackle who will work with the first unit when practices begin this morning. Dalton signed a one-year tender for $358,000 yesterday rather than stage his own holdout.
"I'm going to take advantage of it," Dalton said of that opportunity. "I think I'm going to have a real good camp."
It's possible the Ravens also might fill Siragusa's void with veteran free-agent tackle Gilbert Brown. Ozzie Newsome, the team's vice president of player personnel, said he planned to talk with Brown's agent today.
Then there was the still-unfolding saga of Eric Swann, a free-agent tackle who has three offers, according to his agent, but wants badly to play for the Carolina Panthers.
The Panthers, who just signed defensive tackle Reggie White, are trying to find salary-cap space for Swann. If they don't, Swann's agent, Steve Zucker said, "The first call I make is to Ozzie."
The Ravens were clearly caught off guard by Richardson's holdout.
"Some things, I just don't get," said David Modell, the team president.
One other ramification of the unsigned draft picks is that negotiations for All-Pro left tackle Jonathan Ogden are put on indefinite hold. The Ravens have told his agent, Marvin Demoff, they will address a contract extension for Ogden as soon as the rookies are in camp.
Ogden was not upset over the delay.
"I feel it's more important right now to get the rookies who we need to contribute to the team into camp on time, then get me done," he said. "Once they get that done, then a timetable will come in. Hopefully, after everyone is signed, if we're going to get it done, it'll probably be done within a week."