Washington Redskins rookie safety Sean Taylor was arrested by the Virginia State Police early yesterday morning and charged with driving while intoxicated and declined to take an alcohol blood or breath test, according to Virginia law enforcement officials. Taylor, the Redskins' first-round pick (fifth overall) from the University of Miami, was released on a $5,000 personal recognizance bond and faces a Dec. 1 hearing in Fairfax County.
Taylor, 21, missed yesterday's practice at Redskins Park, an absence the club considered unexcused after initially being unable to contact him. Later in the afternoon, the 6-foot-2, 230-pound Taylor arrived at the training facility for a meeting with team officials, including Coach Joe Gibbs and Gregg Williams, the assistant head coach of defense.
Last night, the team announced that Taylor will be inactive for Sunday's game against the Green Bay Packers, who own the No. 2-ranked offense in the 32-team league behind star quarterback Brett Favre and Pro Bowl tailback Ahman Green.
"You don't ever want [this]. On this football team, we've got some of the neatest people I've ever been around," Gibbs said in brief remarks about Taylor after practice. Gibbs added that the team has "great character guys and people that care a lot about the football team. I hurt for the team, and you don't like to see somebody in trouble, either. You hurt for the person. So we'll just try and deal with all of it as best we can."
Taylor, whose father is chief of police in Florida City, Fla., did not return a telephone message seeking comment. The player faces two Class 1 misdemeanors: driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated (DWI) -- the charges are synonymous in Virginia; plus refusal to submit to a sobriety test to gauge his intoxication level. Taylor also faces a penalty of $2,500 and one year in jail.
Complicating matters for Taylor is the fact that Virginia has some of the nation's toughest drunken driving laws. Convictions for refusing blood or breath tests mean the one-year suspension of a driver's license.
If Taylor is convicted or admits to the charges, he also faces a fine, suspension or other discipline by the NFL at the discretion of Commissioner Paul Tagliabue. NFL fines against alcohol-related convictions amount to one-half of a regular season game, up to $20,000, for a first offense. Taylor had never committed an alcohol-related offense, according to Fairfax County prosecutor Robert Horan.
NFL teams are allowed to fine or suspend players for violating team rules. Gibbs has only one rule, which he disclosed in his first address to the club: Don't embarrass the organization or yourself.
According to the court documents, Taylor was stopped at 2:40 a.m. when a Virginia state trooper spotted his 2004 BMW sedan speeding along the outer loop of I-495 just south of Georgetown Pike. Taylor lives in Ashburn, roughly 20 minutes from where he was stopped.
Lt. Harry Newlin of the State Police said Taylor was stopped for speeding and suspicion of drunk driving. Taylor was given field-sobriety tests, which he failed, then refused to take a breath test, Newlin said. Taylor was arrested and taken to the Fairfax County detention center, where he was booked. Second Lt. Tony Shobe, of the Fairfax County Sheriff's office, said Taylor was brought in about 6 a.m. and released at 10 a.m.
Details of Taylor's whereabouts before his arrest couldn't be confirmed. Some players said they were told Taylor had been at a birthday party thrown by wide receiver Rod Gardner at a D.C. club. When Gardner, who turned 27 Tuesday, was asked about the party yesterday, he refused to take any questions "not related to football."
Phillip Daniels, a nine-year veteran and one of the team's leaders, said, "Being out Wednesday night, after 2 [a.m.], there's nothing good going on out there. It's time to be home. We have a big game this week, there's no reason to be out late on a Wednesday night.
"It would be sad for me to know that we had guys out there at a party that knew that he had too much to drink and didn't make sure he was safe to get back. But we're a family. We're going to hang in there with him, get him back on the field and win games."
One offensive player said that three weeks ago the team conducted a players-only meeting called by a few veterans when the Redskins were in the midst of a four-game losing streak. According to two players present, one issue that came up was the need to avoid the lure of Washington's nightlife during the season.
"We talk about stuff like this way before it happens," Daniels said. "And for it to happen is a slap in the face. But if you look at every team across this league, there's no team that's perfect. Sean is a good guy."
The arrest is only the latest controversy for Taylor. Two days after the April draft, Taylor fired agent Drew Rosenhaus. Taylor was fined $25,000 by the NFL for leaving a mandatory rookie symposium in June. In late July, Taylor fired his new agents, Eugene Mato and Jeff Moorad, because of unhappiness over a seven-year, incentive-laden contract potentially worth $40 million that they negotiated. Taylor subsequently rehired Rosenhaus, who did not return two calls yesterday.
A few Redskins players, including wide receiver Laveranues Coles and linebacker LaVar Arrington, said they intended to counsel Taylor, who had never lived outside Miami before moving to Washington.
"Now, it's not about the situation that has happened," Arrington said. "It's about how he's going to handle it. It can be a blessing in disguise because now it's a wakeup call -- make him focus a little bit more.
"He's a great kid. That doesn't change because he's made a mistake. A lot of people can get caught up into that nightlife in Washington D.C. There's a lot of beautiful women in this city."
Cornerback Fred Smoot said: "There's a lot in this city for a rookie to be exposed to. I'm sure the rookies in Green Bay or Kansas City don't have the same problem."
Gibbs addressed the team before practice about the Taylor situation. The Redskins had a characteristically spirited practice, and players and coaches said that Taylor's arrest wasn't a distraction. Taylor arrived at Redskins Park later in the afternoon, entering and departing through a back door to avoid reporters.
In Taylor's place, Andre Lott is expected to start next to strong safety Ryan Clark. But Williams is known for rotating players. "If you make the active squad, you're a starter," Williams said. "We play a lot of people."
Staff writers Jason La Canfora and Fred Barbash contributed to this report.
Safety was pulled over on the Beltway early yesterday