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Graham misses mandatory minicamp

Posted: Thursday July 11, 2002 6:49 PM
Updated: Thursday July 11, 2002 6:58 PM

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) -- Jeff Graham, whose offseason has been clouded by legal troubles, did not report Thursday for the Atlanta Falcons' mandatory minicamp because of a death in the family.

Mitch Frankel, Graham's agent, called Falcons coach Dan Reeves to explain the absence. Earlier in the day, Reeves, who took the entire team bowling Thursday morning, was upset that Graham had not made contact with the Falcons.

Graham is expected to compete for playing time with starters Brian Finneran and Shawn Jefferson, but legal troubles have overshadowed his offseason.

Graham, an 11-year veteran, signed a one-year, $750,000 deal with the Falcons on April 26. A month later, his name was listed along with 11 others in a federal search warrant in his hometown of Dayton, Ohio.

The search warrant was in connection with the largest cocaine bust in Dayton history. He has not been charged with a crime.

Last October, FBI and IRS agents arrested Graham's sister, Carolyn Graham, following an April 6, 2001 seizure of more than 100 pounds of pure cocaine. Carolyn Graham and gang leader Joe Lee "The Boss" Wright both face life imprisonment and a $4 million fine if convicted.

Two days after the search warrant was unsealed, Kenneth Lawson, Graham's lawyer, held a news conference outside Graham's home. Lawson claimed the player was being punished for earlier filing a lawsuit against the Montgomery County sheriff's office for false arrest.

One month after a one-car accident killed his father, Walter Graham Sr., in Dayton on Dec. 20, the receiver was arrested for having a concealed weapon while sitting in his driveway at 5:20 a.m. on Jan. 19. Graham was taken to jail, but released after several hours.

Later that day, the sheriff's office issued a statement saying Graham had been charged, when in fact he had not.

Lawson responded by filing a federal lawsuit April 8 against Sheriff Dave Vore and four other people, claiming his client was the victim of racial profiling. Lawson said the gun was registered in Walter Graham's name.

"They didn't seek a search warrant in October," Lawson told the Dayton Daily News. "They didn't seek it in November, December, January, February or March. They only did this on May 1, a few weeks after we filed the racial profiling suit. So the question that needs to be asked: 'Why was it timed like that?'"

Lawson refused to discuss Graham's legal issues or his whereabouts when contacted Thursday by the Associated Press.

"I can't comment on any of it," Lawson said. "Period."

IRS special agent Ross Brown, a public information officer working on the cocaine case, did not immediately return a phone call placed to his Cincinnati office Thursday.

The San Diego Chargers, Graham's team for the last three years, released him Feb. 27.

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