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Phillips May Land in Jail Instead of Rams Training Camp

June 14, 1996

ST. LOUIS (AP) _ Lawrence Phillips could go to jail instead of his first NFL training camp following his arrest for drunken driving.

Phillips, the St. Louis Rams’ top draft pick who’s on probation for assaulting a former girlfriend, was arrested Thursday by the California Highway Patrol. Police said he was driving 80 mph on a flat tire and straddling freeway lanes shortly after 2 a.m.

According to Gary Lacey, the Nebraska attorney who prosecuted Phillips, the running back could go to jail if he is convicted of drunken driving and a Nebraska judge decides to impose such a penalty for violating his probation.

``He could get a jail term if all of that happens,″ Lacey said Friday. ``If Phillips is convicted, chances are good that we will file for revocation of his probation.″

A jail term for Phillips is possible based on the maximum penalties for the assault and trespassing charges related to last year’s attack on his former girlfriend. Each charge carries a maximum sentence of six months in jail and a $500 fine.

The Rams said they’re not giving up on Phillips, but said they would include language in his contract to protect themselves from further problems.

``We’re not going to be stupid and put a lot of money out there for something that isn’t going to be on the field,″ coach Rich Brooks said. ``We’re not going to throw money down the drain.″

Brooks said he didn’t know whether he could count on having Phillips in training camp, which starts July 15 in Macomb, Ill., or at the start of the season. So he said the team would shop the free-agent market for help at running back.

Phillips’ probation was to end Nov. 29. He was ordered to spend the last 30 days of his sentence in jail, but such requirements are typically waived if probation is completed successfully.

Lacey declined to say what sentence he would recommend in a resentencing and said he would take no steps until the California case is resolved. He said he was disappointed by Phillips’ apparent violation of his probation, conditions of which include avoiding illegal or disorderly conduct.

``I was pretty optimistic, based upon representations he made to his lawyer, the judge and the media that he was on the right track,″ Lacey said.

Police said they pursued Phillips for five miles before they pulled him over at an exit.

``He was upset,″ Sgt. Ernie Garcia, a CHP spokesman, said. Police said Phillips failed two breath tests at the scene, with a blood-alcohol reading of .15 and .16. The legal limit in California is .08.

Phillips was booked at the sheriff’s Century station, and released about five hours later. Arraignment was scheduled for Monday.

The Rams can only hope Phillips is able to join them. They traded Jerome Bettis, last year’s feature back, to Pittsburgh. The top returnees are Greg Robinson and Brent Moss, who each played sparingly last year.

Brooks said he was impressed in minicamp with rookie fullback Jerald Moore.

But the Rams want Phillips to carry the ball. At Nebraska he ran for 2,777 yards and 30 touchdowns in 27 games. After being suspended for five games for the attack on former girlfriend Kate McEwen, he was reinstated in time for the Fiesta Bowl where he ended his college career with 165 yards on 25 carries and two touchdowns.

``We will probably look at all of our options at this point in time,″ Brooks said. ``This throws a little more uncertainty into our situation than we had planned on.

``It’s not like we’re devoid of backs, but obviously we don’t have a big-name feature back, supposedly, right now.″

On draft day, Brooks said he didn’t believe taking Phillips was a ``major risk.″ He thought he got to know Phillips during the team’s 11-day minicamp, which ended Tuesday. Now he’s not so certain.

``Lawrence is a very pleasant man to deal with one-on-one,″ Brooks said. ``I was looking forward to getting to training camp with him and moving forward.

``I still am; I’m just a little uncertain as to when that will happen, and a little bit now, if that will happen.″

Phillips also overslept and missed a team meeting on the first day of an earlier minicamp. But Brooks, who had been angry at the time, said Friday that was no big deal and noted the team’s other No. 1 pick, wide receiver Eddie Kennison, also skipped that meeting.

He was not fined because he is not under contract.

Brooks said the Rams have tried to help Phillips distance himself from his troubles by surrounding him with responsible players such as former Nebraska teammate Toby Wright, a strong safety. But he said such tactics won’t work without Phillips’ cooperation.

``You cannot help someone who doesn’t want to be helped,″ Brooks said.

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