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Tampa Bay Buccaneers offer their take on playing receiver Mike Williams after arrest

TAMPA — Tight end Jerramy Stevens was arrested last month on charges of felony possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, made inactive against the Rams and released one day later.

Cornerback Aqib Talib was suspended from the regular-season opener by the NFL for his role in an assault of a cab driver in 2009. In September, safety Tanard Jackson was suspended indefinitely by the NFL for violating the league's substance-abuse policy.

Receiver Mike Williams was arrested early Friday on suspicion of driving under the influence. The rookie will start Sunday against the 49ers.

Why are the Bucs treating Williams, 23, so differently?

For starters, while the Bucs say Williams made a poor decision to drink then drive, they don't think he broke the law in doing so.

Williams was driving a black Cadillac 57 mph in a 45 mph zone near U.S. 301 and Causeway Boulevard in east Hillsborough County shortly before 3 a.m. Friday 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, 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. He was booked at 4:44 a.m. and released from the Orient Road Jail at 8:04 a.m. after posting $500 bail.

The Bucs don't excuse Williams' decision to be out late when he had to report to the team facility for practice at 8 a.m. Friday. But his playing status was never really in doubt.

"We're not going to sit a player for speeding," general manager Mark Dominik said Saturday. "And it looks to us as though that's really the only law he broke here."

Dominik also had to consider the precedent around the NFL. Jets receiver Braylon Edwards was arrested on DUI charges in September after he blew a 0.16 on a Breathalyzer. He played the next game at Miami but didn't start.

Broncos linebacker D.J. Williams had a second drunken-driving arrest since 2004 last week but still played against the Chiefs. The Broncos stripped him of being a team captain, and he did not start.

A urine test was given to the Bucs' Williams. That test is sometimes administered when an officer suspects the driver is under the influence of a substance other than alcohol, McKinnon said.

But what has been lost, Dominik said, is that the urine test is not required and Williams volunteered to take one, presumably because he knew no other drugs were in his system.

It's easy to lump all four bad apple Bucs players together and say they had off-field issues before coming to Tampa Bay that negatively affected their value. But Dominik does not believe Williams belongs in that group.

An extensive background check by the Bucs before the draft confirmed that Williams had never been arrested. And they were convinced he did not have an alcohol or substance-abuse problem.

Williams' problems at Syracuse stemmed from twice missing curfew. He stayed out too late. The reason he fell in the draft, Dominik said, was teams thought he quit at Syracuse last year. The Bucs were convinced it was a miscommunication between Williams and his coach.

Those other Bucs players — Stevens, Talib and Jackson — had multiple arrests or tested positive for a banned substance before arriving in Tampa Bay.

Ultimately, Williams' decision to drink and drive will cost him. Even if charges are dropped or reduced, he's another NFL player stained by a DUI arrest.

While he leads all rookies — and the team — in receiving yardage, Williams has a lot of growing up to do off the field.

But the Bucs' decision to play him Sunday against the 49ers was an easy one.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers offer their take on playing receiver Mike Williams after arrest 11/20/10 [Last modified: Saturday, November 20, 2010 8:01pm]
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