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Reeves: I won't play judge and jury

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Juran Bolden will start for the
Atlanta Falcons on Sunday even though he faces criminal charges for
driving a stolen car and marijuana possession.

Why will Bolden be on the field and William Green won't play
this weekend for the Cleveland Browns? Instead, Green will be
serving a one-game suspension imposed by his coach after Green's
arrest on DUI and marijuana charges.

Falcons coach Dan Reeves decided to take a more lenient approach
with Bolden, who was promoted to the starting lineup shortly after
he was hauled off to jail.

From Reeves' point of view, he's merely following that most
American of ideals: innocence until proven guilty.

Then again, the venerable coach has exposed himself to criticism
he's more concerned with turning around his slumping team -- the
Falcons have lost seven in a row -- than he is with disciplining a
wayward player.

Atlanta (1-7) has given up far more yards than any team in the
league. Bolden might be the Falcons' best cornerback. Did those two
factors influence Reeves?

In Cleveland, coach Butch Davis decided to discipline a player
who was charged with -- not convicted of -- a crime. Green's
suspension was announced just a week after his arrest.

But Reeves refuses to go that route, even predicting Bolden
eventually will be cleared of the charges after making vague
references to the team doing its own investigation.

"We feel that Juran will be found not guilty, or we wouldn't
feel like he's a part of our football team," Reeves said. "I
think circumstances certainly dictated that we give him a chance."

No matter what, he has no plans to consider punishment for
Bolden until the case works it way through the courts. Reeves has
decided that criminal charges are beyond the purview of an NFL
coach.

"I don't know all of Green's situation and what happened to him
in the past, but this is certainly a legal matter," Reeves said.
"I'm not going to try and play judge or jury."

This isn't the first time Atlanta's coach decided to overlook a
player's alleged misconduct off the field. In 1999, Eugene Robinson
was allowed to play in the Super Bowl less than 24 hours after he
was arrested on charges of trying to solicit sex from an undercover
police officer.

On the other hand, Reeves suspended cornerback Tyrone Williams
for one game after he apparently lashed out at the coaching staff.

"I think every situation is different when you deal with it,"
Reeves said. "You can't group it all into one. I don't think the
league tries to do that or any team tries to do that. You have to
look at it and investigate it the best you can, but I don't think
you find somebody guilty before they're found guilty."

Davis' decision might have been influenced by Green's previous
troubles. The running back was twice suspended for marijuana use
while at Boston College.

Bolden was arrested Oct. 11 at an Atlanta shopping mall, just
days before he resumed practicing with the team. He missed the
first seven games while recovering from reconstructive knee
surgery.

Bolden, who tied for the team lead with four interceptions in
2002, became a starter last week when the Falcons completely
revamped their struggling secondary. He played well enough in a
23-16 loss to Philadelphia to keep his job for Sunday's game
against the New York Giants.

Under the NFL's personal conduct policy, a player must undergo a
clinical evaluation when charged with a crime. The list of covered
offenses includes theft, larceny and other property cases. In some
cases, the player can be required to get counseling or treatment.

If a player is convicted of criminal charges, he can be fined or
suspended by commissioner Paul Tagliabue. Cases are kept
confidential unless a player is suspended.

Bolden has steadfastly refused to comment on his criminal case.

"I'm all about football," he said. "I'm not talking about
that other stuff."

Bolden grew noticeably angry when a reporter asked him if he was
surprised to avoid a suspension, at least for now.

"I told you already -- I'm playing football. I'm all about
football,'' he said. "You keep asking me about that. I'm all about
football."