Tampa Bay Buccaneers rookie Mike Williams, the team's leading receiver this season, was arrested early today on charges of driving under the influence.
Deputies arrested Williams at U.S. 301 and Causeway Boulevard in east Hillsborough County at 2:48 a.m. He was charged even though his blood alcohol level was lower than the level at which a motorist is considered too intoxicated to drive. Williams was released from Orient Road Jail at 8:04 a.m. after posting $500 bail.
Williams will start in Sunday's game at San Francisco, said Bucs coach Raheem Morris, who consulted with the team's captains before making a decision. Williams will be disciplined, Morris said, but his playing time will not be affected.
"It's always a tough decision when you have to make those types of decisions about mistakes made and errors made," Morris said. "You've got to make those tough decisions. I've got my normal process that I go through and I've done it."
Morris, however, was disappointed with Williams' decision to be out early Friday morning when the team had a scheduled practice this morning and a flight to San Francisco this afternoon.
"I'm very disappointed about the bad decision that he made to be out late and about the worst decision he made, to have a drink and drive with it. He was cooperative. I did get my reports back on that. I'm very pleased with his ability to be cooperative and not be disrespectful and make this thing worse than it could be. I'm pleased with that."
"...Right now, we have a young team that is trying to search for the longevity of winning," Morris said, "and if he wants to be a part of that longevity, he's certainly going to have to clean up his act.
The NFL could discipline Williams down the line, but often waits until cases are resolved before handing out potential punishment.
Williams was driving a black Cadillac 57 mph in a 45-mph zone, weaving in and out of lanes, Hillsborough sheriff's spokesman Larry McKinnon said. When Williams agreed to sobriety tests at the traffic stop, deputies saw signs of impairment, McKinnon said.
Breath tests showed Williams had blood-alcohol levels of 0.065 and 0.061. In Florida, drivers are presumed drunk at 0.08. The blood-alcohol tests were taken at Orient Road Jail.
"But even before they take the breath test, deputies usually have enough probable cause for a DUI," McKinnon said. "That breath test may come back double zero. People have refused the breath test and still got arrested. It only measures alcohol. It won't register illegal or prescription drugs."
"People think, 'If I blow below a 0.08, hey, I'm scot-free,'" McKinnon said. "But I could take four shots of NyQuil and be below it, too. Any type of chemical substance you ingest that impairs your ability to drive, you can get arrested."
Deputies reported that Williams smelled of alcohol and had glassy eyes.
Williams also submitted to a urine test. Results of the test are expected in three to six weeks.
Tampa DUI defense attorney David Haenel said that if Williams did not agree to the test, he would have had his driver's license suspended immediately.
"If the urine test comes back clean, prosecutors will have a tough time proving Williams was impaired," Haenel said. "If something comes back positive, prosecutors have to look at all the evidence.
"Blood alcohol level is one factor. The traffic pattern is a factor. His overall demeanor. The video of the sobriety tests. Prosecutors will still have a tough time, unless something crazy comes back in the urine test."
McKinnon said Williams' sobriety test likely was recorded and will be submitted as evidence to the State Attorney's Office.
Prosecutors declined to comment on the specifics of Williams' case, saying it's an ongoing investigation.
Mark Cox, the State Attorney Office's spokesman, said all the evidence will have to be reviewed before prosecutors decide whether to pursue the case.
If formally charged, Williams may be court-ordered to attend classes about DUI and motorist safety, perform at least 50 hours of community service, lose his driver's license for six months and have his vehicle impounded for up to 10 days, Haenel said.
If the urine tests are clean, prosecutors could still try to charge Williams with reckless driving. In that case, Williams could get voluntary community service and probation, Haenel said.
Williams' play is credited as a major factor in the team's surprisingly successful turnaround. He leads the Bucs in receiving with 40 catches for 627 yards and five touchdowns through nine games. That yardage is the sixth highest in the National Conference and 13th most in the NFL. Williams has already been up for NFL Rookie of the Week five times, all but one after a Bucs victory.
"It's no secret being a professional athlete, especially in the Tampa market, we are a target," Bucs tight end John Gilmore said. "We can't just go about doing things like normal people do. It's one thing about going and getting drunk and having a couple of drinks, but in our situation we got to be a little bit smarter than the average Joe."
Williams, 23, has started every game as a rookie for Tampa Bay this season. He is the first rookie receiver to start on opening day for the Bucs since 1990.
He was considered a first-round talent in last April's NFL draft, but his stock slipped as concerns about his character arose.
While at Syracuse, Williams was forced to serve an academic suspension that came amid allegations he cheated on a test. He also received a one-game suspension in 2009 for breaking team rules and later quit the team in November of that year.
"It's disappointing," Morris said, "because it was old news and now you rehash it and now we've got to talk about it again, what happened in college. ...That's what makes it disappointing for me, because I know the time and effort that I put with these guys in order to avoid situations like this, and to let it go to the wayside like that becomes more disappointing."
Earlier this year, Dominik said he was confident Williams' problems were in the past.
"I wouldn't bring somebody in here if I didn't feel comfortable about it," Dominik said at the time. "I don't think anybody spent more time with this kid than the Buccaneers did, and I think we're going to reap the rewards for it."
This is the second Bucs players to be arrested within the last 30 days.
Tight end Jerramy Stevens was arrested Oct. 23 on charges of possession of marijuana with intent to sell and possession of marijuana, both felonies, and possession of drug paraphernalia, a misdemeanor.
Stevens had 38 grams of marijuana on his possession and was close to the team hotel at the time of his arrest. Stevens was released by the Buccaneers a few days after his arrest.
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