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Phillips Is Back for Nebraska : College football: Running back, suspended for assault, is likely to play in Nov. 4 game.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

After serving what amounts to a very public six-week suspension for attacking his former girlfriend, Nebraska running back Lawrence Phillips rejoined the No. 2-ranked Cornhuskers on Tuesday and is expected to play in the team’s game against Iowa State on Nov. 4.

Phillips, who earlier this season was considered the leading contender for the Heisman Trophy, returned to the practice field for the first time since Sept. 8, the day before he assaulted Kate McEwen, a former girlfriend who played for the Nebraska women’s basketball team. The incident resulted in misdemeanor charges of trespassing and assault, and in Phillips’ indefinite suspension from the football program.

Since then, Phillips, of West Covina, has pleaded no contest to the charges and will be sentenced Dec. 1. He has issued a public apology, undergone psychiatric evaluation at the Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kan., and continued to attend classes. Under the terms of his return, which were set by the university, Phillips also must attend counseling sessions twice a week, perform campus-related community service, is forbidden from having any contact with McEwen and must reimburse McEwen for all non-insured medical expenses.

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In addition, he is not allowed in the school’s athletic department weight room when female athletes are using the facility and he must abide by a court order that prohibits him from having contact with Scott Frost, whose apartment, said police, Phillips entered to assault McEwen. Phillips is also liable for any damage done to the apartment building during the incident.

Frost, a transfer quarterback from Stanford, was responsible for pulling Phillips off McEwen during the assault.

“I don’t think the university or athletic department did the easy thing,” said Coach Tom Osborne of Phillips’ reinstatement. “The easy thing would have been to dismiss him.”

Some critics of the decision suggest that Osborne is blinded by naivete or is simply too stubborn to concede that perhaps Phillips’ actions merited outright dismissal from the team.

“His ethical compass has a needle that is turning back and forth,” Lincoln psychiatrist Eli Chesen told the Associated Press.

Chesen, who attends Cornhusker home games and is writing a book on the subject of violence and running backs, said two months of anger-management treatment isn’t enough for Phillips. Instead, he said it was like “sending a T. Rex to charm school.”

Leslie Wolfe, president of the Center for Women’s Policy Studies in Washington, D.C., also condemned Nebraska’s decision, telling the AP, “I think that every woman at the university should be frightened.”

Nebraska Athletic Director Bill Byrne said Phillips was no different from any other student at the university. In fact, the announcement earlier this week that Phillips would be allowed to remain in school was made not by athletic department officials, but by Vice Chancellor James Greisen.

But when asked if he would have made a similar decision to reinstate Phillips, Byrne said, “It didn’t matter what I felt. What mattered was that we treated everyone fairly.”

During the suspension, Phillips worked out every day on his own but had no formal contact with the team.


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