Holdout linebacker Chip Banks, arrested Friday night in Atlanta for marijuana and cocaine possession and for driving without a license, said Tuesday he doesn’t plan to return to the Chargers this season.
“I don’t really consider myself a Charger now,” he said by telephone from Atlanta. “In a sense, I’m just a civilian.”
Banks, 29, wouldn’t even say he would return to the Chargers next season.
“Anybody’s free game to talk with me, and vice-versa,” Banks said. “My future is not limited to the Chargers anymore.”
Steve Ortmayer, Charger director of football operations, wasn’t surprised by Banks’ statements.
“That seems to be the approach he’s taken since the opening of training camp,” Ortmayer said. “He hasn’t changed. That’s apparently where he is.”
But while Banks’ future may not be limited to the Chargers, it isn’t as wide open as he might think, according to Ortmayer and Harold Daniels, Banks’ Los Angeles-based agent.
The Chargers maintain rights to Banks until Feb. 1, 1989. Between then and April 15, Banks is free to negotiate with other teams. If he reaches an agreement with another team and signs an offer sheet, the Chargers have the right of first refusal--the opportunity to match the offer. If they choose to match the offer, they maintain rights to Banks. If they decide not to match the offer, Banks can sign with another team. If he’s not signed by another team by April 15, the Chargers keep the rights.
So if Banks wants to join another team before Feb. 1, he must first sign with the Chargers, and then they have to trade him.
“I’ve talked with the NFL Players’ Assn., the Management Council and the Chargers themselves, and my understanding is that if Chip wants to play in the NFL again, he has to sign a contract with the Chargers,” Daniels said.
Banks refused Tuesday to discuss his arrest. “I know the deal, and a few people who were with me know the deal,” he said.
Asked a second time to explain his side of the story, Banks said: “No, I’ll keep it like it is. It’s pretty interesting the way it is.”
According to Major Julius Derico of the Atlanta Police Department, Banks was alone in his gold Mercedes when arrested during a routine police road block on Friday. Daniels said Saturday that Banks told him the marijuana found in the car belonged to a passenger. He also said Banks denied cocaine was in the car.
“I don’t know what to believe anymore,” Daniels said.
Banks said he met Monday with Les Miller, Charger director of college scouting. But he denied reports that the Chargers have asked him to enter drug rehabilitation.
“He (Miller) was concerned with what happened, and he wanted to give me support,” Banks said. “But they haven’t said anything to me about (drug rehabilitation). I don’t know anything about it.”
Ortmayer said the Chargers have not asked Banks to undergo drug rehabilitation.
“A member of the media made that up,” Ortmayer said. “Nothing like that was ever said to Chip.”
Banks has been charged with possession of half an ounce of marijuana and four packets of crack cocaine. He was released early Saturday on a $3,600 bond, and a court date has been set for Nov. 2.
Banks said he and his attorney have chosen to handle the case without help from the Chargers.
Said Daniels: “The law in Atlanta is that you have to be represented by an attorney who has passed the bar exam in the state of Georgia. Les (Miller) told me that the Chargers would like to help Chip if they can, and he said that they still want him if he gets himself squared away.”
Daniels also said he has no knowledge of Banks being involved with drugs.
“Never,” he said. “This comes as a complete surprise.”
Banks, the Chargers’ second-leading tackler in 1987, has been holding out since running into trouble with the Charger front office in August.
The Chargers and Banks were reportedly close to an agreement on a 5-year, $4.8 million contract before camp opened July 22, but Banks reportedly said he would not join the team until he received a $300,000 bonus.
On Aug. 8, Charger owner Alex Spanos issued an ultimatum: Report by Aug. 11, or the offer would be withdrawn. Banks stayed out, and Spanos kept his word. Banks has remained a holdout.
Since then, Banks said he has spent time at his home in Atlanta and visiting friends and relatives in Washington D.C., Houston and Miami.
Banks said he leases and rents “about 40 or 50" duplexes and triplexes in the Atlanta area. He also said he hopes to have purchased a mini-warehouse, in which he would rent out space for personal property storage, by Thanksgiving.
“I’m just enjoying myself,” he said. “Right now, I’m going to take care of some business, and then take a long vacation.”
He also said he has no regrets about not playing football this season.
“Not at all,” Banks said. “I feel very fortunate. Sometimes I miss football, but not as much as I would have thought. Besides games on Sundays or Mondays, I don’t miss it at all. I have so many outside interests.”