Football / Sports

Jimmy Smith latest player to be arrested in rocky offseason for Ravens

One month after coach John Harbaugh emphasized a high standard for players' conduct, starting cornerback Jimmy Smith became the latest Ravens player to get arrested during an unusually rocky offseason.

Smith was arrested Saturday night and charged with disorderly conduct, making him the fifth Ravens player to be arrested since February.

The other 31 NFL teams have combined for 14 arrests this offseason. The Ravens' number of arrests this year marks one more than the team's total during the previous six years.

"Pro teams are sort of a different universe," said Sean Brickell, a public relations and crisis communications expert from Virginia Beach, Va., who represents the Norfolk Tides' minor league baseball team. "These guys have extraordinary talents. Most of them are young and have been singled out for their talents and skills and made to feel very special. They're suddenly dealing with a lot of adoration and money and don't really know how to conduct themselves very well yet.

"These pro teams have tremendous programs in place to help these athletes adjust. The best way to handle these situations is to educate them and for the athlete to be truly apologetic and say, 'What I did was just stupid, and I don't want to blow everything I have by being stupid.' With the right help and guidance, they can come back and become outstanding role models."

Police said Smith, 25, was cited for failure to obey a lawful order of a police officer. Ravens team officials are aware of Smith's case.

"We're gathering information about this," said Kevin Byrne, Ravens senior vice president of public and community relations.

The most high-profile case involving a Ravens player this year occurred when running back Ray Rice was arrested in February and charged with felony aggravated assault in Atlantic City, N.J., following a physical altercation with his then-fiancee Janay Palmer, whom he later married. Rice resolved his legal situation when he was accepted into a pretrial diversion program that didn't include jail time.

The Ravens, who will hold their first full-squad practice in training camp July 24, and Rice are awaiting word from the NFL on any potential discipline for the three-time Pro Bowl running back from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. Rice could face a multigame suspension under the NFL's personal-conduct policy. When Goodell issues his ruling on Rice, the Ravens will be thrust into the headlines again.

After Rice was arrested at Revel Casino, wide receiver Deonte Thompson was arrested a week later for felony possession of marijuana in Gainesville, Fla. But Thompson's case was dismissed when another passenger in the car accepted responsibility for the drugs.

Reserve Ravens offensive lineman Jah Reid was arrested in March for misdemeanor battery in Key West, Fla. Reid also was accepted into a pretrial diversion program.

Rookie running back Lorenzo Taliaferro has a pending misdemeanor destruction of property case and drunk and disorderly case from an incident in May in Williamsburg, Va. He has been assigned a July 31 court date.

"When it's an isolated incident, it's a lot easier to understand," Brickell said. "Some pro athletes have a feeling of superiority because of who they are and the amount of money they make. Who wouldn't want to rewind the clock and not do something stupid they've done in their past? It's up to teams and athletes to handle these mistakes in a responsible manner to make sure this doesn't become an ongoing problem."

During the Ravens' final week of minicamp last month, owner Steve Bisciotti and director of player development Harry Swayne conducted a meeting attended by every player, coach and member of the front office.

The primary message was on respect and acceptance in the workplace, which every NFL team is discussing in the wake of the Miami Dolphins' bullying scandal, as well as the St. Louis Rams' selection of Michael Sam, the first openly gay active player in the NFL, during the draft in May.

The meeting also included Bisciotti discussing the pride he has in the organization, as well as Swayne telling players to maintain a positive image by how they conduct themselves on social media.

"It's always the same high standard," Harbaugh said after the final day of the Ravens' mandatory minicamp in June, when asked if he'll change his message to players because of how this offseason has unfolded. "We will always have the same high standard for our guys, and it's the same message. There is always an emphasis, different types of emphasis, on different things.

"And we've emphasized what we need to with our guys. We have good, really good guys. Football matters to them. The more it matters to you, the less inclined you are to do anything to jeopardize that."

In Smith's case, officers went to The Greene Turtle on York Road on Saturday night after the general manager reported that there was an unconscious woman in a bathroom. When they arrived, police said they saw Smith in the women's restroom with an intoxicated woman. Police said that the NFL player was assisting her when she vomited while leaning over a sink.

Smith told police that he and the woman had done a photo shoot together earlier in the evening. Officers later found what they suspected was a small bag of cocaine in the woman's purse, according to the police report. The woman has not been charged.

Police said after medics arrived, officers repeatedly asked Smith to step aside, and he refused to comply and said several times that he was helping the woman. Police said Smith became argumentative when they asked him to step into the hallway.

According to the police report, Smith was told that, because he wasn't related to the woman and wasn't helping her, he needed to leave so that medical personnel could attend to her and Smith replied: "I am helping her."

Police said Smith was asked three times by an officer to leave the restroom before being ushered out to the hallway. Smith allegedly cursed at the arresting officer and asked him, "What the 1/8expletive3/8 are you gonna do?" When told again to leave, Smith replied: "1/8Expletive3/8 you. What the 1/8expletive3/8 are you gonna do?"

Police said Smith was then placed in handcuffs.

When asked for identification, police said Smith answered: "I'm Jimmy Smith, I play for the Ravens," before producing his Maryland driver's license.

While at the Towson precinct, according to the police report, Smith told the officer: "The only reason you arrested me is so you could get on the news."

According to the police report, the officer informed Smith that he wasn't aware of who he was and that wouldn't have made a difference in the outcome of the incident.

Smith then said, according to the report, "You will see this 1/8Sunday3/8 on ESPN."

After the arrest, Baltimore County police said Smith was cooperative with officers at the precinct. Smith was released from custody from the Towson police precinct at about 11:15 p.m. after being issued a citation; a court date is pending. The woman was transported to a local hospital, according to police.

A 2011 first-round draft pick from Colorado, Smith hadn't previously been in trouble with the law since joining the Ravens. When Smith entered the NFL, Smith faced scrutiny about his character because of a history of off-the-field problems. He was cited for third-degree assault and two underage drinking violations in college.

Smith is regarded as one of the top young defensive players on the roster, and the Ravens have said they eventually want to sign Smith to a long-term contract extension.

The Ravens exercised a fifth-year option for 2015 for Smith this offseason, so he's due a $6.898 million base salary in 2015. The salary becomes fully guaranteed if he's on the roster the first day of the 2015 league year.

Smith and his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, haven't commented on his arrest.

"I have discovered in terms of public relations that Americans will forgive almost anything if people are truly contrite," Brickell said. "One mistake shouldn't unravel everything someone has built in their life."

(c)2014 The Baltimore Sun

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