Lawrence Phillips - Running Back - 2001 - Nebraska
CBC Sports Online 25-06-2002
Larence Phillips, 27, agreed to contract terms with Montreal on May 28. He rushed 424 times for 1,453 yards and 14 touchdowns in 35 games, including 20 starts, for the St. Louis Rams, Miami Dolphins and San Francisco 49ers over four NFL seasons. Yet his off-field conduct left much to be desired. Phillips pleaded no contest to domestic violence while starring for the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Drafted sixth overall by the Rams in 1996, the Little Rock, Ark. native was let go 19 months later for insubordination. Phillips was arrested three times and jailed 23 days for violating probation of his drunk driving conviction. Later in 1997, he signed with the Dolphins, yet was released after pleading no contest to striking a woman in a nightclub. Phillips bounced to the Barcelona Dragons of NFL Europe and, in 1999, earned top offensive players honours with 1,021 yards rushing and 14 TDs. Phillips joined the Niners that autumn, but wound up cut for skipping practice. He has not played professional outdoor football since. "I'm looking forward to it," Phillips said following Monday practice. "I just want to play. I feel I'm a good player and I want to show it."
Phillips boldly proclaimed himself "the best player in the league." "When I'm on the field and get going, nobody can stop me," he continued. "It doesn't matter who we're playing." "Whether he's the best player in the league depends on a lot of things," Lions head coach Steve Buratto said. "His statement is from a naive individual because he hasn't played a game in this league yet. "But if he says
that, then (Tuesday) is his first step to being that good. But it's words and nothing counts except shoulder pads and helmets." Phillips is considered a malcontent in football circles, as he showed by jilting the Alouettes just one week into training camp. Citing unfair treatment by Matthews and general manager Jim Popp, he walked out on the team only to return five days later. "Those guys are full of crap, so I left," Phillips said at the time. "I couldn't get a straight answer. "I just wanted a fair shot, no special treatment. There was an underhandedness going on."
Mike Pringle has taken a back seat to no one. Until now. Pringle, one of the preeminent running backs in CFL history, will watch from the bench as newcomer Lawrence Phillips starts at tailback when the Montreal Alouettes host the British Columbia Lions in Tuesday's season opener for both clubs at Percival Molson Stadium. Pringle, 34, is a perennial workhorse and one of the most prolific rushers ever, averaging in excess of 300 carries and 1,600 yards in six of the last eight seasons. He has rushed 2,391 times for 13,680 yards, including a record 2065 yards in 1998, and 104 touchdowns in 145 career games over 10 CFL seasons.
Pringle is a two-time CFL MVP, six-time league all-star and eight-time division all-star with a record 66 100-yard games to his credit. His accomplishments are the stuff of CFL legend. Yet Don Matthews, the winningest head coach in league history, prefers the unproven Phillips. "When you take away his legendary status and take what you know about Lawrence Phillips, it's easier to decide," said Matthews, embarking on his first season as Alouettes head coach. "It's not that he's not the Mike Pringle of old. It's that Lawrence Phillips is an exceptionally gifted football player."I also believe he has a chance to be the best tailback the league has ever seen." Matthews reportedly humiliated Pringle by deeming him the designated import, who can only replace an import player leaving the game for good.
It is a role normally reserved for kickers, not to mention a bitter pill for Pringle to swallow. "I'm not going to be a distraction on this team," said Pringle, who is 2,437 yards shy of George Reed's career rushing record. "I have a lot of respect for the guys in this locker room and for me to make a spectacle of this and take the focus away from our goal would be irresponsible. I'll be as professional as I can and, when I do get out on the field, I'll do what Mike Pringle does." "It surprised everybody, but we knew something was going to happen," added Alouettes linebacker Stefan Reid. "They didn't bring in Lawrence to sit on the bench and he's a fantastic football player and probably deserves a chance to play, so there's no rift. "I think everybody's focused on playing football."
Phillips would last 1 season in Montreal culminating in a Grey Cup championship over Edmonton. Phillips troubled past began to catch up with him and he left Montreal to play with Calgary in 2003. With Calgary, Phillips would not have the same success his play suffered and his attitude worsened after the 5-13 season with Calgary the Nebraska grad was out of the CFL.
-- statistics --
-- NFL --