Tolliver’s Agent Says Spanos Pulled Deal; Chargers Deny It
Contract negotiations between the Chargers and rookie quarterback Billy Joe Tolliver returned to “square one” Wednesday, according to Tolliver’s agent Vic Vines.
Vines said he and Steve Ortmayer, the Chargers’ director of football operations “had a proposal to do a deal” until Charger owner Alex Spanos got involved Wednesday morning and ordered Ortmayer to withdraw the team’s latest offer.
Vines also said Ortmayer separately phoned him and Tolliver to apologize for withdrawing the offer. Tolliver, Vines said, “was very disappointed.”
Ortmayer disagreed vehemently with Vines’ version of Wednesday’s events.
Yes, Ortmayer said, he met with Spanos. And yes, he said, he phoned Vines and Tolliver.
But, Ortmayer said, “I was not apologetic in any way. I told Billy Joe I was disappointed he wasn’t in camp. And I told him we were not going to be involved in agreeing to the kind of framework they want in a contract for an unproven rookie. And I used that phrase ‘unproven rookie.’ ”
Tolliver, a second-round draft choice from Texas Tech and the 51st player chosen in the NFL draft last spring, has maintained through his agents that he should be compensated more highly than other second-rounders because he is a quarterback and because of that position’s importance to the Chargers, a team that finished 26th in NFL offense last year.
“We felt like we were really on the track to settling this thing,” Vines said. “At 12:30 (Wednesday) we were very excited. But we have been told that Spanos didn’t like the concept of the deal. The problem was not present dollar value. It was concept.
“But it’s a dead issue now. Steve (Ortmayer) said it was dead.”
Ortmayer: “Our offer is the same one that’s been on the table since the weekend. I don’t look at this as a setback. Because the offer is right where it has been. They have given us umpteen proposals. And Alex and I have refused to (put incentives into) a contract for a player who should already be here.”
Tolliver, meanwhile, continues to miss the valuable practice time new Charger Coach Dan Henning hoped he would get in order to prepare him for the 1989 season. Tolliver was scheduled to report with the rest of the rookies last Saturday.
While the Chargers continue to make noises about signing an unnamed quarterback to help out in the absence of Tolliver, the name of unsigned running back Gary Anderson has remained in the background.
Don’t expect Anderson to report at 4 p.m. Friday when the veterans are due.
Anderson, voted the Chargers’ most valuable player last year after he rushed for 1,119 yards, didn’t receive his first contract offer from the Chargers until last week.
“I doubt it,” said Peter Johnson, Anderson’s agent, Wednesday when asked if Anderson would be at practice Saturday.
Johnson said he has not sent a counter-proposal. But he did offer the Chargers encouragement when he said he didn’t expect Anderson to announce he wanted out of the Charger organization the way tackle Jim Lachey did when he demanded a trade last summer.
“Gary Anderson wants to play for the Chargers this year if they’re committed to him running the ball and if we can reach an agreement,” Johnson said.
Steve Ortmayer, the Chargers’ director of football operations, was even more succinct when asked if there was any possibility Anderson might demand a trade a la Lachey: “No.”
But, Ortmayer added, “I think the most likely player not to be here (when the veterans report) is Gary.”
The Chargers’ rookies and free agents will scrimmage the Rams’ rookies and free agents Sunday afternoon at UC San Diego, and Henning can’t wait to see how running back Napoleon McCallum does in his first scrimmage against an opposing team in more than two years.
McCallum is currently on leave from the U.S. Navy and will eventually return to his duties as naval recruiter. That means he will be holding two jobs at once.
But for now he’s a football player and he has been one of the best looking ones on the field during the first week of camp. Even after he pulled a leg muscle Wednesday morning, keeping him out of the afternoon practice, Henning was unconcerned.
“Napoleon has already shown some things that explain why people get excited about him when he’s in the game,” Henning said. “He has a different running style than most people. He has a way of dipping and shifting inside. And for a big guy, he gets through some little cracks. He hasn’t exploded through and run off on anybody. But he’s moved the pile, and he’s a smart guy.
“He’s never been a speed back. But he’s starting to show us what he’s got. When we put him in there against the Rams on Sunday it will all come back to him I think. I don’t think the layoff is going to hurt him too much.”
Henning is especially high on rookie running backs Marion Butts and Victor Floyd, neither of whom was a feature back last year at Florida State because of the presence of Sammie Smith.
Floyd is quicker than Butts. Butts is stronger, weighs more (248) and is tougher than nine miles of detour. At Florida State, Wayne McDuffie, the Seminoles’ offensive coordinator, nicknamed Butts “John Dillinger in headgear.”
“I don’t know about John Dillinger in headgear,” Henning said Wednesday. “But here’s a guy who comes in here at just under 250, and he doesn’t look anything near that. There must be a density there . . . a compactness about him. He comes in here, and he learns, he’s willing, and he packs a load as a blocker.”
Butts was a seventh-round selection, Floyd an 11th-rounder.
“He (Butts) is a joy to work with, and so’s the other guy (Floyd),” Henning said.
The absence of Tolliver prompts questions about two things: Are the Chargers risking wearing out the arms of the two active quarterbacks in camp--Mark Malone and David Archer? And might the Chargers consider talking to the Cowboys about rookie Steve Walsh?
Henning says the answer to the first question is no because Mark Vlasic (even though he can’t participate in live drills because a knee injury has forced the Chargers to place him on the “physically unable to perform” list) is helping share the throwing load in other areas of practice.
As to the Walsh question: Henning likes quarterbacks with strong arms. Walsh doesn’t have one. The three teams, in order, most likely to deal for Walsh are Minnesota, Kansas City and Green Bay.
Former Charger quarterback Dan Fouts, now a broadcaster with CBS has been in attendance at several of the Chargers early practices. . . . Perhaps the distinguishing factor in training camp so far this week has been the amount of scrimmaging with “live” hitting.