- Rich Cimini, ESPN Staff Writer
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Rex Ryan didn't want to talk about Braylon Edwards. But his owner did. And his teammate wishes they had handled things differently.
A visibly concerned Woody Johnson, addressing Edwards' drunk-driving arrest for the first time, expressed disappointment in the veteran wide receiver. The New York Jets' owner, whose team has come under fire for the way it has handled the matter, defended the decision to let Edwards play Sunday night in Miami.
Johnson said he has spoken three or four times to Edwards since the Tuesday-morning arrest on Manhattan's West Side, adding that Edwards has expressed the appropriate remorse.
"Embarrassment would not be the way I'd characterize it," Johnson told reporters. "I think it's more sad rather than embarrassed. I'm sad for him."
Relating what he told Edwards, Johnson said, "This is not acceptable, Braylon. I'm disappointed. You let yourself down and you let your team down."
Johnson was upset that Edwards didn't utilize the PlayerProtect program, a 24-hour driving company that caters to professional athletes. It's a confidential service, but some players are reluctant to use it, fearing their names will get back to management. Johnson insisted that won't happen.
"If they tell me who the name is, I'm firing the service," he said. "I don't want to know. But if you have one drink, you should not be driving. Half a drink, don't drive. Drink liquor, don't drive."
Jets defensive end Vernon Gholston, a passenger in Edwards' vehicle at the time of his arrest, said Thursday that he wishes they had called the service.
"Hindsight is ... You always wish you could've did this, you would've did this," he said, commenting for the first time. "Obviously, the mistake has been made. Do you want to go back and change it? Yeah, but moving forward, I'll be calling."
Asked if he has the service on his speed dial, Gholston said, "Yes, sir, I put it in my phone."
Gholston said he didn't ask Edwards for the keys.
"No, he was pretty much the driver," Gholston said.
Gholston said Edwards didn't seem impaired.
"I really can't comment on it too much, but to my knowledge, no," he said.
As punishment, the Jets decided to remove Edwards from the starting lineup, but will allow him to play. Johnson, saying the organization researched a year's worth of drunk-driving arrests from around the league, claimed their discipline is "about as severe an action as I've seen."
The collective bargaining agreement prevents them from suspending or deactivating Edwards, but they could dress him and not play him. That would make a loud statement. In that case, Edwards still would get paid. There would be no repercussions from the players' union unless Edwards wanted to file a grievance, and he suggested Wednesday that he wouldn't.
Ryan, stepping out of character, refused to answer any questions about Edwards and his potential role in the game.
"I don't have anything to add, it's as simple as that," he said. "Nothing's changed. We'll make that decision when it's time to make that decision. I'd rather focus on other things."
Pressed, Ryan said he hasn't made a final decision, "but I've got a feeling."
Johnson dismissed the notion that Edwards is getting off easily.
"He's losing a lot more than [his starting role]," Johnson said. "He's been accused of a serious [offense]. He's got a serious ticket in front of him. If proven guilty, it's a serious taint on his record. He's going to be a free agent. If convicted, that's not going to be helpful. He's got a heavy load in front of him."
Jets legend Joe Namath doesn't agree with how the team is handling Edwards' punishment.
"As far as benching him for the start of the game being a penalty to Braylon, excuse me! That's not gonna bother him a little bit," Namath said on "The Michael Kay Show" on 1050 ESPN Radio. "[And] if you're gonna play him, play him from the start, don't penalize the team."
Edwards' legal problems may not end with the DWI charge. He runs the risk of violating the probation he received in January for an incident outside a Cleveland nightclub. A Cleveland Municipal Court spokesman told the Newark Star-Ledger that he is not in violation for being arrested and charged, but a DWI conviction could result in jail time and up to a $1,000 fine.
The Edwards arrest was the latest blemish on the team's image. Previously, the Jets received a public rebuke from the league for unprofessional conduct toward a female TV reporter from Mexico. Johnson doesn't believe the off-the-field incidents have tarnished the team's reputation.
"This type of thing doesn't represent who we are and what I want us to be," he said.
6hOhm Youngmisuk and Rich Cimini