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Enis, Bears Reach Tentative Deal

August 18, 1998

CHICAGO (AP) _ Curtis Enis is going to be a Chicago Bear, after all.

The fifth pick overall in the NFL draft, who threatened to sit out the season after contact negotiations turned sour, and the Bears agreed to a three-year contract Monday, said Mark Hatley, Chicago’s vice president of player personnel. Enis will sign his contract Tuesday, and is expected to be at the Bears’ training camp in Platteville, Wis.

``This is the best deal for Curtis,″ Enis’ agent, Greg Feste, said in a telephone interview from his Houston office. ``We talked about it before, and he said `If we can’t get what we need to pay my market value, let’s do a short-term deal.‴

Enis will get $5.5 million over three years with a $3.6 million signing bonus, Hatley said. The contract also has an option for a fourth year that could pay Enis at least $2 million. Enis would have to rush for 3,900 yards in his first three years _ gaining at least 1,000 yards each year _ to get the minimum tender offer of $2 million, Hatley said.

The deal with Enis leaves Andre Wadsworth of Arizona and Carolina’s Jason Peter as the only unsigned first-round draft picks.

Enis has already missed 26 days of training camp and two preseason games. The Bears open the regular season Sept. 6 against Jacksonville.

``When he gets in here, I think he’ll respond well and hopefully we can get him ready for the Jacksonville game,″ Hatley said.

Enis got more good news Monday when a Dallas County grand jury declined to indict him in a sexual assault complaint because of a lack of evidence. An Irving, Texas, woman filed the complaint May 30, but Enis was never arrested or taken into custody.

The case was referred to a grand injury after an investigation didn’t yield any physical evidence.

``We’re relieved and ecstatic,″ said Joe Bailey, one of Enis’ attorneys. ``There was no substance to the allegations, so it’s not really a surprise, no. We had faith in the system from the beginning. We’re just always glad to see it work.″

Talks between Enis and the Bears faltered shortly before training camp when Enis dumped veteran agent Vann McElroy and hired Feste, who had never negotiated an NFL contract. The Bears proposed a long-term deal, but Feste wanted a contract with voidable years, which lets a player cancel years at the end of the contract if certain performance standards are met.

But the Bears don’t do contracts with voidable years, and instead offered several long-term deals. Feste balked, saying they would leave Enis underpaid.

``I was not going to sign Curtis to a five-year deal that would underpay him,″ Feste said. ``This puts all the pressure on Curtis to perform, but if he performs, he’s going to maximize his value.″

Negotiations became increasingly hostile as they dragged on. Ted Phillips, the Bears’ vice president of operations, said Enis hung up on him during a weekend telephone conversation. Enis, who left Penn State a year early after accepting clothing from an agent, threatened to sit out the entire season and re-enter the draft next spring.

A deadline imposed by the Bears came and went Sunday with no deal. Later that night, Feste called Phillips.

``I said to Ted, `Let’s bury the hatchet, let’s get over the personal thing,‴ Feste said. ``We picked up the ball and got it done.″

There won’t be any lingering hard feelings, Hatley said.

``Negotiations are negotiations,″ he said. ``Things are always said and you take those with a grain of salt.″

Enis should be a welcome addition to the Bears, whose running woes from last year have carried over into the preseason. Chicago rushed for just 13 yards total in its Aug. 8 loss at Baltimore, and was held to 14 yards in the first half Friday at Arizona.

Despite the long holdout, Feste said Enis, who is third on Penn State’s all-time rushing list with 3,256 yards, will be ready for the Bears’ opener.

``I think the Bears are going to be surprised at the shape Curtis is in,″ Feste said. ``Obviously, the coaches have to make their decisions, but Curtis thinks he’ll be ready to go.″

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