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Glauber: NFL must change rule on first DWI or DUI

Braylon Edwards of the New York Jets sits

Braylon Edwards of the New York Jets sits on the bench during a preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles. (Sept. 2, 2010) Photo Credit: Getty Images

Braylon Edwards was arrested at around 5 a.m. Tuesday, booked on drunken-driving charges and left Manhattan Criminal Court late in the afternoon. Wednesday morning, he was practicing with his team for Sunday night's game against the Dolphins. The Jets announced late Tuesday that Edwards would not start but would play.

Great example for the kids, huh? You allegedly do something that potentially endangers lives and you're back, just like that. It's not right, and it must change. Now.

Even the Jets were furious at Edwards' alleged actions. There's a good chance they'd have taken more severe measures, including deactivating Edwards for Sunday's game. But they couldn't do anything more than keep him out of the starting lineup because the league's collective bargaining agreement prohibits the suspension or deactivation of a player charged with his first DWI or DUI.

It's time that rule is changed, so that teams have tougher disciplinary options for players who put themselves in the kind of situation Edwards did Tuesday.

Thankfully, no one was hurt. But Edwards had three passengers, including teammates D'Brickashaw Ferguson and Vernon Gholston. Prosecutors said he had a blood-alcohol level of twice the legal limit, and if true, Edwards would have been endangering all of their lives and those of others if he had had an accident.

Which is what happened to Edwards' former Browns teammate Donte' Stallworth on March 14, 2009, after he and Edwards went out drinking in Miami. While driving home alone, Stallworth struck and killed a pedestrian. He pleaded guilty to DUI manslaughter and was suspended for the 2009 season. How Edwards allegedly could put himself in a similar position is almost beyond belief.

But what's also disturbing is that the league has little power to send a strong message that such behavior is unacceptable. According to people familiar with the situation, the NFL repeatedly has pressed the NFLPA to increase the level of discipline for first-time DUIs to a suspension of up to four games. Each time, the union rejected the idea.

I'm told the Jets were prepared to deactivate Edwards for Sunday night's game but were concerned the union would try to block the move.

Said union spokesman George Atallah: "What we've said is that if there are any changes made to either the personal-conduct policy or the substance-abuse policy is that it has to be done through collective bargaining."

My sense is eventually there will be a policy that allows stricter penalties, but not until a new CBA is negotiated. Yet even with the NFL and the union at loggerheads on financial issues that could lead to a lockout, it's time for both sides to revisit the substance-abuse policy's stance on first-time DUI and DWI.

This is far too important an issue to be used as a bargaining chip. The NFL and the union routinely have updated policies on substance abuse and personal conduct. It's time to do so again.

That Edwards will be on the field Sunday is just wrong. It's time the league and the union do the right thing and change the system so they can send the proper message to our kids.

New York Sports