Ravens bench McAlister for violating rules

THE BALTIMORE SUN

SAN DIEGO - Ravens starting cornerback Chris McAlister will not play in tomorrow's game against the San Diego Chargers after violating team rules, coach Brian Billick said yesterday.

Although team officials would not comment on the specifics of the violation, a team source said McAlister broke the 9 p.m. curfew Thursday night and skipped yesterday morning's team meeting.

The Ravens will move free safety Gary Baxter to McAlister's cornerback spot and start Will Demps at free safety.

Known as one of the league's top cover men, the Ravens' 1999 first-round pick has built a more troublesome reputation off the field.

A month ago, McAlister was pulled over for speeding and was charged with driving under the influence in Fairfax County, Va. He was later fined $5,000 by the team and then taped the letter informing him of the fine inside his locker.

McAlister, 26, signed a one-year contract worth $5.9 million - which breaks down to a $347,000 paycheck over 17 weeks - as the Ravens' franchise player, and could potentially be an unrestricted free agent in six months. Billick would not elaborate on how this incident affects McAlister's present or future with the team.

"We'll work with Chris as Chris needs to address some of the issues," Billick said. "We'll take care of that next week."

His arrest in August wasn't the first brush with the law. Three years ago, McAlister was arrested on a charge of misdemeanor possession of marijuana. Charges were later dropped for insufficient evidence.

McAlister could not be reached for comment yesterday.

According to the source, McAlister reported back just as the team was prepared to leave the hotel for practice. Outside the bus, Billick notified McAlister that he would not accompany the team the rest of the weekend, the source added.

That means McAlister will not stay at the team hotel, attend the game or fly back with the team. McAlister grew up in Pasadena, Calif., and was seen with his parents Thursday afternoon.

"Chris will do whatever he wants this weekend," Billick said. "He and I will reconvene early next week and go from there. We've got a game to play this weekend, and I have a team to orchestrate. Chris will make his plans accordingly and be back to Baltimore on Monday."

The Ravens originally weren't scheduled to be in San Diego on Thursday. Trying to avoid Hurricane Isabel, the team flew to the West Coast on Wednesday night.

Billick said he doesn't second-guess the decision to leave early in light of the issue with McAlister.

"I'm always concerned how this team conducts itself individually and collectively, no matter where we're at," Billick said.

Billick also downplayed any distractions from losing a starter less than 48 hours before kickoff.

"This team is very focused right now," Billick said. "They responded very well to practice today to the changes we have to make. Just like when a player is injured, you make the adjustments, the next guy steps up and you go from there."

Baxter has played primarily at free safety this season after starting 14 games at cornerback last year. The move is actually welcomed by Baxter, who considers himself a cornerback anyway.

"This is what I love to do, so it's not an adjustment at all," Baxter said. "It could be a game-time decision and I would love to get in there and do it. It's not anything big to me."

Next for Ravens

Matchup:Ravens (1-1) vs. San Diego Chargers (0-2)

Site:Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego

When: Tomorrow, 4:15 p.m.

TV/Radio:Ch. 13/WJFK (1300 AM), WQSR (102.7 FM)

Line:Ravens by 1

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