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Football to fugitive: The fall of Joe Phillips page 2
The former Chiefs defensive tackle seemed prepared for a prosperous life after football. Now he's a man on the run.

 Joe Phillips (right) had a solid 12-year career with the Chargers, Chiefs, Rams and Vikings before retiring in 1998. Now, the onetime upstanding Kansas City citizen is a wanted man.
DAVID KAUP/AFP/GETTY IMAGES
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Date published: 7/25/2006

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A Sept. 26, 1990 fight with three men outside a Mission Beach, Calif., restaurant and bar nearly ended his life.

He suffered a skull fracture, a broken nose, three broken ribs and a broken facial bone near an eye. A police officer testified Phillips had a blood alcohol level of about 0.23--nearly three times the legal limit of .08 for drivers in California at the time.

Phillips entered the Betty Ford Center and completed a 28-day treatment plan for alcohol dependency. In December 1990, Phillips told reporters he had the "possible existence of a genetic predisposition to alcohol dependency."

The Chiefs were aware of Phillips' history with alcohol when they signed him, but because of his stay at Betty Ford, he was subject to random testing. The Chiefs and Cynthia Phillips said he remained clean during his six years in Kansas City.

"I've never seen Joe take a drink," said former Chiefs center and teammate Tim Grunhard. "I had him over at the house for family parties, and he seemed like he was always under control."

During the mid-1990s, Joe and Cynthia were as visible as any husband and wife in Kansas City.

He was on the board of directors of The Don Bosco Centers, honorary chairman for Court Appointed Special Advocates and with Children's Mercy Hospital's Hands & Hearts. Cynthia was on the board of directors for CASA of Jackson County, Mo, and Hope House, a shelter for victims of domestic violence in the Kansas City area. Cynthia, a former aspiring actress, was a co-host of a television pregame show and a radio talk show with her husband. Both had law degrees.

Joe Phillips, who also had a stockbroker's license, worked in the legal department at Sprint and later for McDowell, Rice, Smith & Buchanan, a Kansas City law firm.

"During the offseason, he would work out early in the morning and then put on a suit and tie and go to work at the law firm," said Chiefs president Carl Peterson. "It looked like this was a very stable, fine, outstanding citizen who also happened to play football. And he was a very good player who helped us win a lot of games."


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