The National Football League will take no action regarding Tony Peters' arrest yesterday, on a charge of conspiracy to possess and distribute cocaine, until the judicial process is concluded.
"We will keep abreast of the developments in the Tony Peters case and will offer any cooperation we can with the authorities," said NFL spokesman Joe Browne.
Under league rules, Peters could be fined, suspended or have his contract terminated by Commissioner Pete Rozelle. Peters, who has taken a paid leave of absence, is beginning the first year of a four-year, $1 million contract.
Peters, the Redskins' Pro Bowl strong safety, was accused yesterday of helping arrange the sale of cocaine to undercover agents of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
Under guidelines applied recently by Rozelle, players involved in court cases have not been disciplined until after they either have been convicted or have admitted in testimony that they bought or sold drugs.
Peters' arrest is only the latest in a series of incidents involving NFL players over the past few years.
On July 25, Rozelle, who left yesterday to attend a preseason game in England, suspended running back Pete Johnson and defensive end Ross Browner of the Cincinnati Bengals, linebacker E.J. Junior of the St. Louis Cardinals and cornerback Greg Stemrick of the New Orleans Saints through the first four games of the 1983 season for cocaine involvement.
Junior and Stemrick had been placed on probation after conviction for possession of cocaine. Browner and Johnson, given immunity from prosecution in a federal drug case, testified to having purchased cocaine on several occasions. Johnson said he is considering appealing Rozelle's decision.
In announcing the suspensions, Rozelle said the league remains committed to limited amnesty and rehabilitation for drug abusers who come forward voluntarily and seek help. But he said players who become involved in the criminal justice system face discipline from the league.
Involvement with illegal drugs threatens public confidence in the integrity of the game, Rozelle said, and "may also give rise to pressures on players to alter their performance on the field in the interests of illegal gamblers."
The suspensions of Johnson, Browner, Junior and Stemrick marked the first time an NFL player had been suspended specifically for involvement with illegal drugs, although NFL players have been incarcerated for drug involvement.
Two other drug-related cases involving NFL players are pending, each of which will be weighed on an individual basis once the legal process is completed, according to NFL officials.
Redskins running back Clarence Harmon, who is Peters' roommate at training camp in Carlisle, Pa., is facing cocaine possession charges in Texarkana, Tex., following arrest in March. Vernon Perry of the Houston Oilers also is facing cocaine possession charges.
Five members of the Dallas Cowboys, running backs Tony Dorsett and Ron Springs, defensive ends Harvey Martin and Larry Bethea and wide receiver Tony Hill, have been named in media accounts of investigations into drug dealers in Dallas, although none of the players has been charged.
Former Miami Dolphins running back Mercury Morris, a standout on the Dolphins' 14-7 Super Bowl victory over the Redskins in 1973, is currently serving a 20-year prison sentence following a conviction late last year of trafficking in cocaine.
St. Louis Cardinals defensive end Kirby Criswell was sentenced to five years at the federal prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., after being convicted of conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine.
Last August, Mike Strachan, a former running back with the Saints pleaded guilty in federal court in New Orleans to selling cocaine and received a three-year sentence. Among his named customers were Saints running back George Rogers, the 1981 NFL rookie of the year; San Diego Charger running back Chuck Muncie, and Saints defensive end Frank Warren.
The NFL's cocaine problems were thrust into national media prominence in June 1982 when Don Reese, a former defensive lineman with the Dolphins, Saints and Chargers, wrote a first-person account for Sports Illustrated about his involvement with cocaine. Reese was subsequently found guilty of probation violation related to drug use and served six months in prison.