— Braylon Edwards is trying his best to prove to the New York Jets he is genuinely remorseful for his actions this week.
Edwards told me that Friday afternoon he left a message for Commissioner Roger Goodell, saying, "I want to be the kind of guy you want in this league."
Regarding the decision to bench Braylon for the 1st Quarter, Jets General Manager Mike Tannenbaum told me that he, team owner Woody Johnson and coach Rex Ryan have had a half a dozen conversations since last night.
Sitting Edwards was a difficult but unanimous decision reached at 6 p.m. tonight. Tannenbaum said it was for obvious disciplinary reasons. The fact he was arrested and out until 5 a.m. combined with other factors including his taunting penalty last week contributed to the decision.
His one-quarter benching was determined by balancing the precedent that other teams in similar situations did nothing with the reality that they want to win the game.
There will be no disciplinary action for D’Brickashaw Ferguson or Vernon Gholston, the passengers in the car the night Edwards was arrested, because they have impeccable off-the-field records as Jets. Edwards, with the team only 11 months, had the least amount of goodwill and had the most serious offense.
Edwards is very apologetic and is taking this matter seriously. He acknowledged that his actions look bad. His head coach Rex Ryan said Edwards used poor judgment and he feels that the player is remorseful. Ryan maintains, "(Edwards) made a mistake but we support him and we believe in him. But we weren't happy with him."
As you may recall, early Tuesday morning, Edwards was stopped by police for driving a car with excessively tinted windows and was subsequently arrested for driving while intoxicated. He took a breathalyzer test which registered an alcohol level of .16, nearly double the New York state legal limit. His attorney said he would challenge how the breathalyzer was administered. Edwards told me that as far as he knows he won't be interviewed by police prior to his November 9 court date at which he is scheduled to answer the charges. I'm told that Jets tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson, one of the passengers in Edwards' car, has been informed that police may want to interview him.
Edwards told me that he returned to practice on Wednesday although he took reps with the second string, which was in line with what Ryan had already told him - that he was not starting on Sunday.
A firestorm of criticism rose in New York all week as to whether or not the Jets should further discipline Edwards or deactivate him for this game. Since this is an alcohol related issue, it falls under the terms of the substance abuse policy so punishment is at the sole discretion of Commissioner Goodell. However, according to an attorney in the league office, deactivation is at the sole discretion of the head coach if he does not feel that Edwards is one of the best 45 players on his roster that day. But Ryan said he just plans to sit Edwards at the start of the game.
Teams normally have latitude to suspend a player under the "conduct detrimental to the team" proviso but this situation was made more difficult since Edwards was arraigned and released on a players' day off. If he had missed a day of practice it would've been easier to justify sitting him for "conduct detrimental." The team could have chosen to suspend Edwards but only as a result of his performance this week -- if they concluded he was distracted or not focused on his preparation or if he was a distraction to the team, but not as a punitive measure.
The Jets chose not to pursue this option. Tannenbaum said he did not want to be put in a situation where a grievance could be filed against the team. As an attorney, Tannenbaum understands the value of precedent. He said they did extensive research on players who had been arrested over the past two years (not just for drunk driving) and that teams always deferred punishment to the league and the CBA. He specifically referenced two cases: former Steeler (and current Jet) Santonio Holmes who was deactivated by the Steelers in 2008, on a Friday, the day after his arrest for possession of marijuana. Tannenbaum pointed out it was Holmes' third off-the-field incident. According to a Players' Association source, a grievance was filed by them on Holmes' behalf but it was ultimately withdrawn after Holmes' Super Bowl MVP performance.
Tannenbaum also cited the case of Colts defensive lineman Ed Johnson who was released by the team following his arrest for possession of marijuana in 2008. The Players' Association filed a grievance on Johnson's behalf but it was tabled when the Colts ended up re-signing him. The grievance was never withdrawn however and is still pending (grievances can remain open for years).
Edwards told me that he would accept whatever decision the team made since "this was a situation I put myself in" and that he would not bring a grievance because "I don't want any unnecessary friction with the team." Tannenbaum said that a player cannot waive his collectively bargained rights. However, my league source who is an attorney told me this is not correct. "The decision to file a grievance ultimately rests with the player," said the attorney. And he said there is no precedent for the Players' Association filing a grievance on a players' behalf without the participation of the player.
Tannenbaum said that while Edwards has not "been a boy scout, he came to us with a clean slate. He's given us 11 months of good, uninterrupted work. That's his track record here."
But recall that the Jets acquired Edwards days after he was accused of punching a man outside a Cleveland nightclub in October 2009. He pleaded not guilty initially but ended up pleading no contest to misdemeanor aggravated disorderly conduct. He received 18 months of probation and a $1,000 fine. The conviction in Ohio resulted in a league-imposed fine of his first game check, estimated at $200,000. Depending on what happens with this latest case, he may have to return to Cleveland to face a possible probation violation, which could carry up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Tannenbaum also pointed out that once Edwards' legal process has run its course, he could still face significant ramifications and punishments. If he is convicted or pleads no contest to the current charge he will likely be subject to the league's personal conduct policy and could face a possible suspension. A conviction or no plea contest likely would be viewed as a second violation of the personal conduct policy. Edwards told me that he has not been in the league's substance abuse program up to this point so as a first time offender, the league could fine him half a game check or up to $50,000 if convicted (per the current CBA). Edwards will now also be subject to increased random drug testing and will have to undergo evaluation by a clinician. Edwards told me that he does not have a problem with alcohol or drugs.
Regarding the night in question, I asked Edwards why he did not use the Player Protect system, a free and confidential program provided by the Jets 24 hours a day that offers a car service for just these type of circumstances and will even drive players home in their own cars (Edwards drove his own vehicle that night). Edwards said that due to his pending legal matters he could not answer that. But Tannenbaum said "I've been asking that question too."