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Bucs: Rookie receiver Mike Williams will play Sunday despite arrest on suspicion of DUI

TAMPA — Bucs standout rookie receiver Mike Williams will be disciplined by the team for his arrest early Friday on suspicion of driving under the influence, but that punishment will not be meted out on the field.

Williams, who leads all rookies in receiving yards, flew to San Francisco with the team Friday and is expected to start Sunday against the 49ers, coach Raheem Morris said. Morris made the decision after discussions with team officials and team captains.

"He'll be disciplined, but it won't have anything to do with playing time," Morris said. "We'll deal with that internally."

It all stems from Williams' arrest in east Hillsborough County, near U.S. 301 and Causeway Boulevard. He was booked at 4:44 a.m. and released from the Orient Road Jail at 8:04 a.m. after posting $500 bail.

Williams was driving a black Cadillac 57 mph in a 45 mph zone and weaving between lanes, said Larry McKinnon, Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office spokesman.

Two Breathalyzer tests found his blood-alcohol level at 0.065 percent and 0.061 percent, records show, below the threshold of 0.08 at which the state presumes a driver is impaired.

But Williams failed a field sobriety test, smelled of alcohol and appeared to have glassy eyes, McKinnon said. A urine test was conducted and results are pending, he said. A urine test is sometimes done if a deputy suspects a driver is impaired by a substance other than alcohol, McKinnon said.

Williams did not answer calls to his cell phone and was not made available for comment early Friday. Later, upon arriving at the team hotel in San Francisco, he declined to comment.

Morris and team leaders were critical of their top receiver's decision to be out just hours before he was to report to One Buc Place at 8 a.m. Friday.

"There's better choices to make during the week of a game," center and captain Jeff Faine said.

But Morris added that the decisions are up to the player — even for a 23-year-old rookie.

"These guys are grown men," Morris said. " … It's supposed to be common sense that you go home and get ready to play a very important football game.

"Right now we have a young team that's trying to search for … longevity. If he wants to be a part of that longevity, he certainly has to clean up his act."

With Williams' blood-alcohol results below 0.08, a case against him could be tough to prosecute, said Leslie Sammis, a Tampa DUI defense attorney not connected to the case. Results of a urine test are typically not a strong indicator of what is in a driver's system at the time of arrest. And the test results often take four months or longer to obtain. Often, a defense attorney will ask for a speedy trial within 90 days, not enough time for a prosecutor to get the results.

The field sobriety test is a tool for law enforcement to use to determine if someone's normal faculties are impaired, but it's not a strong enough indicator to prosecute someone, Sammis said.

For Williams, who could face a fine from the club, the arrest is a setback in his effort to live down a controversial college career that cost him in this year's draft, dropping him to the fourth round. He missed the 2008 season at Syracuse after he was caught cheating on a test, then missed the latter part of the 2009 season after missing curfew after a car crash and a subsequent misunderstanding with his coach. NFL teams construed it as him quitting the team. The Bucs backed him after extensive research on his background.

"(It's) disappointing because it was old news," Morris said.

The arrest also brings to the forefront several legal and other issues involving Bucs players. Tight end Jerramy Stevens' tenure with the team ended Oct. 25 when he was released two days after his arrest on felony marijuana charges.

Safety Tanard Jackson was suspended indefinitely by the NFL in September for violating its substance-abuse policy. Cornerback Aqib Talib was suspended for the season opener for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy, stemming from a 2009 arrest on a battery charge.

Perhaps, Morris was asked, it was time to make an example of someone.

"They have great examples," he said. "If it happens again, they all know the consequences they have to face. Tanard Jackson is no longer here. Jerramy Stevens is no longer here. … It can be taken away very fast."

Times staff writers Rick Stroud, Danny Valentine, Ileana Morales and Emily Nipps contributed to this report.

Bucs at 49ers

4 p.m. Sunday, Candlestick Park,

San Francisco

TV/radio: Ch. 13; 620-AM, 103.5-FM Line: 49ers by 3

Bucs: Rookie receiver Mike Williams will play Sunday despite arrest on suspicion of DUI 11/19/10 [Last modified: Saturday, November 20, 2010 4:52pm]
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