TAMPA - The Bucs assumed more risk than usual in signing free-agent tight end Jerramy Stevens on April 29. Not surprisingly, they now will be forced to pay an unusual price for their gamble.
Stevens, who twice has been arrested on DUI charges since he came to the NFL in 2002, was suspended without pay for one game Tuesday by the NFL for violating its substance abuse policy.
Stevens' most recent arrest came March 13 in Scottsdale, Ariz., when he was charged with extreme DUI and marijuana possession, but an NFL spokesman told The Tampa Tribune on Tuesday that Stevens' suspension is not related to the DUI aspect of that incident.
The suspension, which also calls for Stevens to be fined an additional game check, begins immediately, which means Stevens will not practice with the team this week or play Sunday against Atlanta.
"When we signed Jerramy this spring, we knew there was a possibility that he could face some type of disciplinary action from the NFL for his prior actions," Bucs general manager Bruce Allen said in a statement Tuesday. "Since he has been with the Buccaneers, Jerramy has been a great teammate and productive player for our team."
Stevens has played sparingly this year, catching 10 passes for 86 yards and a touchdown, but his touchdown catch at New Orleans two weeks ago was a game-winner.
Stevens will be eligible to return to the Bucs' active roster Monday, but his legal troubles are not done. In addition to further punishment from the NFL, he also faces a sentencing hearing on his most recent DUI conviction.
Stevens, who was found guilty in that case in Maricopa County, Ariz., in September, received a stay on his sentence that is expected to allow him to finish the season with the Bucs.
Judge B. Monte Morgan sentenced Stevens to 12 days in jail and fined him $3,160 for his drunken driving and traffic violations but immediately stayed the sentence pending the outcome of an appeal.
The appeal, filed by James Nesci, Stevens' Tucson, Ariz., attorney, seeks to void Stevens' sentence or at least delay it until after the NFL season ends in January.
Stevens' conviction carried a 30-day mandatory jail sentence, but the amount of jail time could be reduced by the judge if Stevens agrees to spend time in a rehabilitation program.
Stevens, who has faced previous DUI charges, currently is involved in an NFL-sponsored rehabilitation program that includes more than 100 hours of one-on-one sessions with a medical doctor.
As a result of his involvement in that program, Morgan agreed to shave 18 days off Stevens' sentence.
Stevens' blood-alcohol content was nearly three times the legal limit of 0.08 percent when he was arrested about 2:30 a.m. on March 13.