McAlister: ‘Read between the lines’

Street Talk McAlister: ‘Read between the lines’

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OWINGS MILLS — The Chris McAlister situation is still festering as the Baltimore Ravens’ Pro Bowl cornerback sullenly answered questions about being benched for Sunday’s victory over the Miami Dolphins.

There was little clarity to be gleaned from McAlister’s evasive responses Wednesday other than when he told reporters to draw their own conclusions when repeatedly asked if he had been disciplined by coach John Harbaugh for violating team rules. McAlister was replaced by reserve Frank Walker in a 27-13 win, missing his first start this year.

"You have to read between the lines," McAlister said. "I don’t know. He said I wasn’t disciplined, so I wasn’t disciplined. Ask coach. He said I wasn’t in his interview, didn’t he?"

A three-time Pro Bowl selection, McAlister played in only eight snaps against the Dolphins. Harbaugh has reiterated that McAlister wasn’t punished or held out due to a troublesome right knee.

"You’re all confused? The man said he put his best 11 on the field," McAlister said. "Obviously, he thinks Frank is better than me."

When asked if he felt that way, McAlister replied: "No comment. Frank is a good corner."

McAlister leads the Ravens with three interceptions and ranks second in franchise history with 26 interceptions. This season, he has recorded 19 tackles and is tied for the team lead with seven pass deflections.

"You all go look at the tape of the first four weeks and tell me if it feels like I need to be on the field or not," McAlister told a small group of reporters.

McAlister shed no light on what, if any, instructions he has been given on what he needs to do to regain his starting status Sunday against the Oakland Raiders.

"They haven’t told me that I have to do anything," McAlister said. "They’re going to do whatever they want to do. It’s up to them."

When asked if he’s on the same page with Harbaugh and if he’s happy to be with the Ravens, McAlister replied: "I come to work every day just like everyone else. That’s all I can say. What do you think? Of course, I’m happy to be here."

McAlister was wearing a T-shirt and shorts at the lobby of the team hotel Sunday morning before the game and was accompanied by three young women. They were picking up tickets from the veteran defensive back, according to Harbaugh.

"He said that I was wearing shorts, this dress code thing," McAlister said. "I don’t know what he’s talking about. I don’t read the newspaper. What he said is what he said."

McAlister was limited in practice because of his right knee, but wasn’t listed on the injury report prior to the Dolphins game. The knee has been a chronic issue all season.

Harbaugh remained vague about McAlister’s status and whether he had run afoul of team rules regarding conduct, just making general references to how he handles disciplinary issues. He said that McAlister not wearing a dress suit like his teammates wasn’t why his playing time was reduced so drastically.

"To be clear and specific about the way we do it, none of it has to do with any player as far as the way they dress," Harbaugh said. "That is a discipline issue and we handle it as a discipline issue. It’s separate from the playing time.

"We put the best 11 players out there for that situation. I don’t know how you can be much more clear than that. It applies to Chris just like it applies to any other player on our team. I think it’s pretty clear-cut what I’m saying."

Harbaugh stressed that under the system he developed to handle problems in conjunction with general manager Ozzie Newsome that rule breaking doesn’t affect playing time unless it rises to the level of conduct detrimental to the team governed by the collective bargaining agreement. 

"They don’t reflect a playing time issue," Harbaugh said. "We’ve set up our matchups this week against the Raiders with our guys against their guys, and those are the ones we’ve got in practice this week and those are the ones we’re going to go with Sunday. What you need to see from the players as they practice it and get ready to go and kind of hone their skills for Sunday, I’m sure Chris will do that."

Defensive end Trevor Pryce said that McAlister still retains support from his teammates.

"Whatever it is he’s going through or gone through, that really has no bearing on him as a person," Pryce said. "We know what Chris is. Chris knows what I am. You’ll never hear any of us say anything that’s derogatory toward our teammates. Again, we’re friends first. You have to become close as a football team."

INJURY REPORT: The Ravens officially ruled out cornerback Samari Rolle (neck surgery), strong safety Dawan Landry (spinal cord concussion) and offensive tackle Adam Terry (arthroscopic right knee surgery).

For Landry and Rolle, it marks the fifth consecutive game they’ll miss.

Free safety Ed Reed didn’t practice due to a hamstring injury that limited his playing time against

. Wide receiver Demetrius Williams (left Achilles’ tendon) and return specialist Yamon Figurs (left knee contusion) also didn’t practice.

Running back Willis McGahee (left knee) and offensive tackle Jared Gaither (neck stinger) were limited.

Cornerback Derrick Martin (shoulder) participated fully.

RING OF HONOR: Former All-Pro offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden will be inducted into the Ravens’ Ring of Honor during a ceremony Sunday after retiring in June..

The inaugural draft pick in franchise history will join former majority owner Art Modell, running back Earnest Byner, linebacker Peter Boulware and defensive end Michael McCrary.

"I was kind of expecting it, but even still it was a great honor to hear,"

said. "To know that my name is going to be up there for years, it’s just really an honor. I expected it, but when it came it was still kind of a shock. So, it’s a really good thing."

made it clear that he doesn’t miss playing football, at least not the pain of battling at the line of scrimmage. A chronic turf toe injury to his left big toe prompted

to retire after a dozen seasons and 11 Pro Bowl selections.

"Do I miss it on Sundays? No, I don’t," he said. "I miss some of the camaraderie that you get with the guys. When I watch the game, I say to myself, ‘You know what? I could still probably play,’ but I don’t miss waking up Monday morning feeling beat up.

"I just don’t miss the pain that this game brought. My toe just really wasn’t ever going to let me be the player that I wanted to be, so I’m okay with it. Every now and then, I’ll watch Jared Gaither or Adam Terry or any left tackle and I’ll sit there and tell myself, ‘I could’ve done better than that.’ But that thought comes and goes real quick."

said the toe injury, incurred during a December 2006 game against the Cleveland Browns, still bothers him.

"My toe could not, I couldn’t play a football game," he said. "It’s getting slowly better. I can run a little bit now a little bit better. Just the thought of playing football doesn’t work."

QUICK HITS: Linebacker Terrell Suggs held the football with one hand during his 44-yard interception return for a touchdown against the Dolphins. "We don’t want another Leon Lett in here," he said. "I guess with everything good I do, there’s something bad. You can always work to be better." Suggs also critiqued his unorthodox celebration following his first NFL touchdown. "I would have Deion [Sanders] high-stepped in there, but this was my first touchdown and I didn’t know how to react when I got there," he said. … Two Raiders defensive line starters didn’t practice: Derrick Burgess (triceps) and Gerard Warren (ankle). … Pryce had a funny line when asked about trying to sack 260-pound Raiders quarterback JaMarcus Russell. "You ask him nicely to lay down," Pryce said. "Seriously."
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.

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Aaron Wilson

About Aaron Wilson

Aaron Wilson covers the NFL for National Football Post as well as the Baltimore Ravens for The Carroll County Times and He has previously covered the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans and has covered the NFL since 1997.  He has won several regional writing awards, including, most recently, Best Sports News Story for the state of Maryland in voting conducted by the Associated Press managing editors. 

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