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Boys Take Chance On Spellman

In need of help on the defensive line, the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday agreed to a contract with troubled veteran Alonzo Spellman, according to his agent, Leigh Steinberg.

The team did not immediately confirm a deal had been struck.

Steinberg said Spellman, who has been out of football since the Chicago Bears released him in June 1998 following several bizarre episodes, accepted a one-year contract for the veteran minimum of $400,000.

There is no signing bonus, but Spellman can make another $400,000 in incentives.

"Alonzo is very enthusiastic about the ability to play football again," Steinberg said. "Dallas has been evaluating Alonzo for many, many weeks now. He has made great progress in his battle against emotional illness and they're satisfied he can be a productive player."

Spellman suffers from bipolar disorder, a condition that is treatable by medication but can lead to manic behavior if he doesn't take his pills.

Several episodes manifested last year, most notably in March when he barricaded himself for eight hours inside the home of his publicist.

SWAT negotiators couldn't talk him into coming out, but former Bears star Mike Singletary did. Spellman was hospitalized, but the next day he walked out of the building and into freezing weather without wearing a shirt or shoes.

Over the next six months, Spellman's problems included:

Detroit police using pepper spray to subdue him from attacking hotel security guards who were trying to break up a fight between two women who were with him.

The Bears releasing him two years into a four-year, $11.6 million contract.

Getting pulled over for erratic driving, which led to his arrest for having a semiautomatic handgun in his car, a bullet in the gun case and a half-empty wine bottle. He was also driving with a revoked license.

Getting evicted from his home.

Police awakening him from a nap in his car in the fast lane on an interstate highway. Officers said that when they woke him, he didn't seem to know where he was.

Remnants of that ruinous period remain. He faces an Aug. 19 court date in Michigan for a felony charge of carrying a concealed weapon and misdemeanor charges for having open alcohol in a vehicle and driving without a license. If convicted, he faces up to five years in prison on the weapon charge and up to 90 days in jail on the misdemeanor charges.

Spellman's off-field problems would seem to make him a bad fit in Dallas, where team owner Jerry Jones has said he's trying to clean up a tarnished image. In fact, a big reason why Dallas needs Spellman is because tackle Leon Lett is suspended indefinitely for violating the league's drug policy.

But Spellman's on-field potential likely was too much for Jones to resist. Jones is counting on the 6-foot-4, 292-pound lineman to have reined in his demons without losing the edge that made him successful.

Spelman left Ohio State after his junior year and the Bears made him a first-round pick, 22nd overall. He made 32 sacks in six seasons in Chicago with a high of 8@1/2 in 1995.

"Alonzo is very, very gifted physically, and when he wasn't in the bout of illness and depression, he's totally classy," Steinberg said. "That's what was so sad about the way his behavior completely degenerated."

©1999 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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