St. Louis Rams quarterback Tony Banks did a little damage control on his image on Thursday, saying comments he made after going AWOL for a day were misconstrued.
After a post-practice conversation with coach Dick Vermeil and team owner Georgia Frontiere, who hugged Banks and told him he should display his emotions more, Banks briefly spoke to reporters. He did not take questions.
"I tried to show I was moving on," Banks said. "By no means was I trying to say I don't care. I think my biggest thing is I care too much. I carry a lot of weight on my shoulders."
Said Frontiere: "He's been close to tears. And men don't cry."
Distraught over a poor performance in a 14-0 loss at Miami on Sunday, Banks got off the team bus and skipped the team flight home and a day of film study on Monday. Instead, he stayed with his girlfriend, and after the team's day off Tuesday, he rejoined the Rams on Wednesday morning.
Banks, who was fined $5,000, appeared to show no remorse on Wednesday. He wondered what the "big deal" was and also said "Mondays are not really that important of a day." A team source said Banks, in his apology to teammates, also expressed regret that other players with Florida roots were not allowed to stay behind when the team returned to St. Louis on Sunday night.
On Thursday, he said he was just putting on a brave front to show the problem won't distract him in preparation for Sunday's game against San Francisco 49ers. He also said oly the statements that reflected a cavalier attitude, and not the fact he admitted he had made a mistake, were publicized.
He said when the Rams lose, reporters can see the "hurt in my face."
"I would appreciate it if it would just be relayed that I care deeply about what I do for this team," Banks said. "And that I am sorry, but I'm also trying to move on."
Vermeil, who declined to bench Banks, was tired of talking about it. He also said since he arrived last season, this was the first time Banks had been fined for making a mistake or breaking a rule.
"It's over," Vermeil said. "It's a dead issue."
Vermeil didn't care what Rams fans thought about it, either. One fan showed up in the lobby at Rams Park on Thursday to tell Vermeil that Steve Bono should start this weekend, and it apparently was not a long conversation.
"I said, `Jeez, I respect your opinion, but I don't agree with it,'" Vermeil said. "And went on about my business. I can't let fans determine how to run this organization. That would be the dumbest thing I could ever do."
Vermeil said Banks' walkout wouldn't affect whether the team offers him a longterm contract after this season. Banks can be a free agent after this season.
"Everything is going to be based on how Tony plays football," Vermeil said. "There's guys in the Hall of Fame that have made far more drastic mistakes than skipping an airplane flight home, believe me."
© 1998 SportsLine USA, Inc. All rights reserved