The mystery that has become Alonzo Spellman deepened last week when the defensive end was a no-show at Bears mini-camp in Lake Forest on the same day that he was at the Daley Center for a divorce hearing.
The man who long has played with a shaved head appeared at the Daley Center with his hair dyed almost blond. The man who friends say always refused to violate his body with needles now sports tattoos.If there is a solution to the Spellman riddle, it appears to be as elusive as the 1992 No. 1 draft choice. Phone calls the last several days to his publicist, Nancy Mitchell, have gone unreturned. Calls to his agent, Leigh Steinberg, have not been answered. Players who have been closest to him have not talked to him. The Bears have received no calls from Spellman, who faces thousands of dollars in fines for missing this weekend's mandatory mini-camp and team meetings.
"We're trying to contact him," team President Michael McCaskey said, "but so far he has not returned any of the many calls that we placed through a lot of different people."
Because of the uncertainty, the Bears have done little regarding Spellman beyond previous efforts to trade the troubled defensive end. Those ended in March with a much-publicized standoff with police in Tower Lakes.
"When the Alonzo thing gets resolved, we'll go from there," coach Dave Wannstedt said. "He was notified about mini-camp like anybody else. There's a lot of things involved, so I don't want to comment too much."
Several courses of action are possible for the Bears.
On the football side, the Bears are looking at other defensive ends to be acquired either via trade or when they become free agents June 1 or earlier. Clyde Simmons is available now, but the Bears consider his price too high. Kansas City is shopping Vaughn Booker, acquired while Bears personnel vice president Mark Hatley was in the Chiefs' front office. Chris Doleman is expected to be released by San Francisco, and San Diego is not expected to keep defensive linemen Marco Coleman and Shawn Lee.
But those are actions more likely if Spellman is not with the Bears in 1998. There are several ways that could happen:
- The physically-unable to perform designation allows teams to place a player on an injured list for the first six weeks of the season without using a roster spot for him. But a player on that list is paid, in Spellman's case at his $1.9 million base salary rate.
- An injured player can be placed on the non-football-injury list before the start of training camp.
- Release. Spellman could be cut by the Bears, a move that would save them $900,000 under their 1998 cap.