Braylon Edwards practices with Jets
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Sensitive to the perception that Braylon Edwards is getting away with a light punishment for his drunken-driving arrest, the New York Jets shifted into damage control Wednesday, suggesting they're handcuffed by the collective bargaining agreement with the players' union.
Team officials were curiously vague on their plans for Edwards for Sunday night in Miami. Rex Ryan, appearing uncomfortable at times during his news conference, said he hasn't decided on how much the veteran wide receiver will play against the Dolphins. Ryan reiterated what the team announced Tuesday night, that Edwards will play, but won't start -- a decision that triggered a firestorm of criticism.
The organization still is investigating Edwards' arrest, according to general manager Mike Tannenbaum, who said the playing-time decision won't be finalized until the Jets have all the facts.
Addressing reporters for the first time since his arrest, Edwards showed little remorse. He apologized to the organization, his teammates and his fans but displayed little emotion.
"I don't understand the black eye this would put on the organization," Edwards said, adding, "This isn't a representation of what this organization is about. ... This is the situation that I put myself in, so I don't see how this could be a black eye for them. It's more so a black eye for myself, if anything."
Edwards said he has no problem with the team's decision not to start him. The veteran wide receiver said that if he is deactivated for the game, he'll "support it wholeheartedly" and won't ask the union to contest it. According to the CBA, a team can't suspend or deactivate a player for an alcohol-related offense.
Tannenbaum said he appreciated Edwards' gesture but noted that a player can't waive his collectively bargained rights.
The Jets have received criticism for not taking a stronger stand, but there's some background to consider. Around the league, no player arrested on a DWI charge over the past year was deactivated or suspended by his team. If the Jets deactivated Edwards, he'd lose a $30,000-per-game bonus, per his contract -- and that wouldn't sit well with the union. Of course, the Jets could activate Edwards but not play him; he'd collect his money.
In 2008, the Pittsburgh Steelers deactivated Santonio Holmes for one game after his arrest on marijuana charges. A grievance was filed, but the Steelers prevailed, perhaps because it was Holmes' third arrest. Holmes now is a member of the Jets, serving a four-game suspension for violating the substance-abuse policy.
"We fully support the league, and we'll let the process run its course," Tannenbaum said.
Edwards, who violated the league's personal-conduct policy because of a nightclub altercation last October in Cleveland, faces a maximum fine of $50,000 for a substance-abuse offense. A suspension is possible, but it likely will take several months for the matter to be adjudicated.
After meeting with Tannenbaum and Ryan late Tuesday night, Edwards spoke Wednesday with owner Woody Johnson. They might speak again Thursday.
Asked to describe Johnson's reaction to the arrest, Tannenbaum said, "Very disappointed. We take this stuff seriously. It's not lip service."
Tannenbaum said Edwards was "very sorry, very disappointed, very remorseful. He feels like he let everybody down." Facing reporters, Edwards didn't show that disappointment.
When asked whether he was embarrassed, Edwards said he wouldn't use that word, saying, "Because it's a pending legal matter, I can't let emotions answer questions."
He didn't say he acted selfishly. He referred to the arrest as an "event," as in: "For the event to happen like it did, it was sad for me to be in that situation."
Edwards declined to answer when asked whether he learned anything from the Donte' Stallworth situation. In March 2009, Edwards and Stallworth, teammates on the Cleveland Browns, were drinking in South Beach, Fla. That night, Stallworth struck and killed a pedestrian.
"It's a question I'd love to answer," Edwards said, "but it's a pending legal matter."
The Jets were furious with Edwards because he failed to utilize the Player Protect program, which offers free transportation to professional athletes -- on a confidential basis. The players were briefed on the program only last week. Edwards said he's aware of it but that he uses his own "car service."
On Monday night, Edwards said he drove himself into Manhattan because he stayed late at the team's facility, watching film. He attended a fundraiser held by teammate Jerricho Cotchery, saying it was perhaps only the third time he'd driven in Manhattan. The fundraiser ended at 9:30 p.m. Edwards was arrested at 5:15 a.m. after registering a 0.16 on the blood-alcohol level testing device, double the legal limit.
Ryan said he received a call from Tannenbaum around 6:30 a.m., informing him of the arrest.
"To say the least, I was a little upset with it," Ryan said. "We know how important this game is."
Ryan said he never considered a harsher punishment for Edwards. Cutting his playing time, he believes, is the right way to go. "I'm not going to tell you Braylon is going to miss X amount of the game because, quite honestly, I'm not ready to do that right now," Ryan said. "When it's the right time, I'm going to make that decision."
Rich Cimini covers the Jets for ESPNNewYork.com.
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