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Lawrence Phillips Agrees to Deal With Rams, Practices For First Time

July 31, 1996

MACOMB, Ill. (AP) _ Controversial St. Louis Rams running back Lawrence Phillips apparently learned the wrong lesson from the off-field problems that led to his 16-day training camp holdout.

``I didn’t really find myself doing any soul-searching,″ a remorseless Phillips said Tuesday after signing a three-year, $5.625 million deal that doesn’t include a signing bonus. ``Just basically, if you’re going to go to the club, get a limo or something, but don’t drive after you leave the club.″

Phillips, who slipped from perhaps first overall in the draft to sixth due to personal woes, was arrested for drunken driving in California in June. Phillips allegedly had a blood-alcohol level twice the legal limit when a California Highway Patrol officer spotted him driving 80 mph on a flat tire.

The arrest came while he was on probation for pleading no contest to a misdemeanor assault in an attack on a former girlfriend at the University of Nebraska. Officials in Nebraska have said they probably would seek to revoke Phillips’ probation if he’s found guilty on that charge, and that would mean a 30-day jail sentence.

Phillips’ initial court appearance is Aug. 28. He and the Rams believe jail time wouldn’t come until after the season, if at all.

Phillips’ holdout wasn’t about money. Because of his problems, the Rams insisted that Phillips earn his pay a la carte.

``They just had to realize what was important to us,″ Rams general manager Steve Ortmayer said. ``We didn’t short him any money, we just did the contract with a different structure. It’s just not guaranteed money.″

Phillips didn’t appear concerned about the lack of a bonus.

``The money is going to be there if I perform well,″ he said. ``Some guys get it now, and after their contract is up and they don’t perform well, they don’t get it later.

``I’m just hoping it comes later.″

Last year’s first-rounder, defensive end Kevin Carter, also was the sixth pick and he got a $5 million signing bonus. The Rams’ other first-round pick this year, wide receiver Eddie Kennison _ the 22nd pick _ got a $2 million bonus after signing a contract on Sunday.

Phillips will make $1.5 million this year, $1.875 million next year and $2.25 million in 1998.

Rams coach Rich Brooks said he liked the concept and wished more contracts were constructed that way.

``I think the best scenario in football or any job is really that performance pays,″ Brooks said. ``The thing to me that’s gotten totally out of hand is the bonuses for guys that have never put on a pair of pads.

``I think the concept of the higher salary and maybe a smaller bonus should be the rule rather than the exception.″

Now that he’s under contract, the Rams don’t expect any more problems with Phillips. For one thing, the intense workload in training camp doesn’t allow much time for getting into trouble.

``The players will wrap him up in their cocoon and he’ll be on the straight and narrow, particularly here in good old Macomb,″ Roland said. ``There’s not a whole lot to do around here and there won’t be any problem accounting for his time.″

On the field, the Rams are confident Phillips will produce. He missed 23 practices, but lined up for several plays in his first practice and likely will see some action in the opening exhibition Saturday night in Pittsburgh.

Phillips was the last of the Rams’ 10 draft picks to sign. The only unsigned player still listed on the club’s roster is quarterback Mark Rypien, last year’s backup quarterback who has rejected a salary cut.

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