2-07-2001 BY GEOFF HOBSON
The odyssey that began when a Cincinnati television station caught Bengals kick returner Tremain Mack on camera driving to and from practice may or may not have ended Wednesday with a warning from Hamilton County judge Ralph Winkler.
Winkler, who put Mack in jail for 30 days last month for breaking his probation stemming from two DUIs in 1997 and 1998, released him Wednesday from the Hamilton County Justice Center.
But Dan Masonson, the AFC's information manager, said Wednesday afternoon Mack's playing status, "is under review," by the league with no timetable.
That was a surprise for Mack because the club and his agent had been under the impression he faces no more sanctions from the NFL for the probation violation because there isn't a new charge.
NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue already suspended Mack for the first four games of the 1999 season, but the league's management council is apparently looking into what a probation violation might mean.
Mack's agent has been informed his client faces another probation hearing within 30 days in Texas, where he has also been charged with at least one DUI covered by his probation.
"We're hoping that the judge will see that he's already served 30 days in Cincinnati and take that into consideration," said David Levine. "We thank the judge in Hamilton County. We think it has helped he's been a model probationer."
Mack couldn't be reached for comment. Levine said his client, "is as well as can be expected," and is looking to put his life back together.
But Levine is still upset with last November's report by WLWT-Channel 5 that documented Mack driving to and from Paul Brown Stadium several times even though his license has been suspended.
"I hope Channel 5 is satisfied
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with its ratings even though it meant a man who was putting his life back together again was incarcerated for at least 30 days," Levine said. "I haven't spoken to one NFL front office person, player, or media person who thought they did the right thing. It's a shame."
Mack, 26, a four-year backup safety who went to the Pro Bowl after the '99 season as a kick returner, was led away in handcuffs last month after pleading no contest to the violation of probation.
On Wednesday, Winkler warned Mack that another violation puts him in jail for the rest of his sentence (about a year) and virtually ends his employment.
"He got himself into this problem and he's going to have to work his way out of it," said Bengals President Mike Brown. "We expect him back this season and we're glad to have him."
Levine has said Mack is tested for alcohol use 10 to 20 times per month and has been clean for the past 18 months.
Winkler was also apparently impressed enough with Mack's extended hours of community service and attendance at counseling sessions to limit his jail time to 30 days.
"I would think that loomed large," said Perry Ancona, Mack's lawyer. "The Court was kind and hopefully he won't be back here."