After Wednesday’s organized team activity, members of the Buccaneers organization spoke with the media regarding tight end Jerramy Stevens. Since the Bucs re-signed Stevens, members of sports talk radio and writers have criticized the team for bringing back a player with character concerns. Stevens spoke with the media about his problems, and declared that they were in the past.
“I don’t understand why that’s pertinent,” said Stevens. “This is all in my past. None of it is new, and a lot of it is false. It came out, but it's not a new issue, the issue has been addressed when I got drafted, all of that was addressed then. This isn’t anything new to me. I don’t know what caused all this to get dug up, but it's all things in my past and that’s where I’m going to keep it.”
The outbreak of the latest story stems from a report written by the Seattle Times on January 31, which details some of Stevens' past troubles. The story goes into the alleged rape that Stevens committed at the University of Washington. Stevens was dismissed of any charges, and was sued by the supposed victim. The suit was settled out of court for $300,000. Stevens denies the rape allegations.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been involved in anything that’s factual that was hurting another person,” said Stevens. “I’m not going to address allegations or any of those things. I think I just answered that. I’m a different person. I’m approaching life differently then I was at that point in my life.
“No I didn’t read that story. I don’t have a reaction to it. Because I’ve dealt with that and it’s something that is in my past and that’s where I’m going to keep it. I’m not going to back-track eight or nine years to talk about something that I’ve moved past. I don’t know what the point of that article was but it’s not something I concern myself with."
Despite several run-ins with the law, Stevens says that he has finally learned from his mistakes and plans on not repeating them.
“All I can really say for those things is I’ve learned from those things. I understand that it is a fan's right to understand what’s going on,” said Stevens. “The fact that I play for the Buccaneers, and the fans in the community are concerned, I understand that. All I can really say is that the fans that I’ve met have been really supportive.
“Obviously I’ve made some mistakes. The only the way that I can go forward, and be a better person, and stay a better person, is to keep my eyes focused forward and not keep backtracking to these things that did happen and I did learn from. I can move forward and I felt like I’ve gotten the support of the fans every time that I’ve been out in public, and so I appreciate that greatly.”
Buccaneers general manager Bruce Allen also spoke to the media about Stevens putting his past troubles behind him.
“We investigated his relationship with the Seahawks,” said Allen. “Coach Holmgren gave Coach Gruden a good recommendation as he did to some of our personnel people. We told him the fine line that we were going to be looking at him every day with, and he abided by it.”
Pro Bowl linebacker Derrick Brooks has a reputation of being a high character person, and a leader of the Bucs locker room. With Stevens coming back to the team, Brooks was questioned about whether a player with his problems fits in well with players like himself.
“He fits in well,” said Brooks. “We as players have no problem with Jerramy. He came in and made his contributions when his number was called. Towards the middle to the later part of the season you started to see him do a lot more. Obviously, he made a couple of plays late in games that we won. He put this team on his back late in some games. Jerramy, in terms of his character on this football team, has really been special for us and it’s something we welcome. He was a part of our chemistry. Now things outside of here – we don’t judge anybody. We keep an open-arm policy. We don’t focus on the negative, we focus on the positive. He’s been a positive teammate and I’m looking forward to his second year here with me.”
In March of 2007, Stevens was arrested for driving under the influence and possession of marijuana. He was later convicted of the DUI charge in Scottsdale, Ariz. on Sept. 7, which ultimately led to his most recent suspension. In 2003, he had pleaded guilty to reckless driving. Prior to that, Stevens, 28, had been convicted on a hit-and-run charge in 2000 after driving into a nursing home while he was attending Washington. The most alarming accusation leveled against Stevens was an alleged rape that took place while at Washington. Stevens seemed surprised that he had to discuss his past again.
Hosts and callers on sports talk radio WDAE 620 AM have been critical of the Buccaneers organization for re-signing Stevens in light of the article that came out after last season. Stevens and Allen indicated that Stevens’ side of the story was explained to NFL teams.
“Before the draft, every team does their own investigation and the league does their own investigation and an extensive investigation,” said Allen. “The charges were dismissed, but we knew about the accusation. You had information. You had the district attorney’s comments – the lead prosecutor – and why he dismissed it. Those things were well known."
“I think you know that the NFL goes all the way back on all the details,” said Stevens. “Yeah it was something that was addressed fully. When it's been addressed since, I’ve been honest then, and I’m being honest now. I’ve dealt with it. I gave my side of the story. There’s plenty of stuff out there that could be addressed but I don’t feel like I need to do that. I don’t feel like I owe that explanation for what I’ve done. I know what’s been alleged and what’s actually happened. I don’t need to address those things. I don’t feel that I do.”
When the Seattle Times story came out, Stevens' past transgressions were brought into the public eye again. The article also went into greater detail about the past trouble that Stevens got into. Many of the specifics of the report were unknown items to the public. Allen was questioned if there were any new revelations to him and the Buccaneers in the report.
“There were some comments by police detectives – I think that’s the right way to classify them – on their individual feelings,” said Allen. “But obviously, if charges are brought in any case, there is some sense that policemen or some type of investigator felt there was wrongdoing there. But when the district attorney cleared him, I’m sure that’s why Seattle ended up taking him in the first round.
“These issues, obviously, as we said last year, are well documented from the past. We knew them in 2000. Every NFL team knew about them before he entered the NFL.”
On Tuesday, Pewter Report first reported that Stevens would have a two-game suspension in 2008. Last year, Stevens was suspended for the Bucs game against the Atlanta Falcons on Dec. 16. If Stevens violates the NFL Personal Conduct or Substance Abuse policies prior to the start of the 2008 regular season, Stevens would be suspended without pay for a third game. According to sources, Stevens delayed the rest of the suspension in order to help Tampa Bay make the playoffs. Stevens was questioned about the suspension and how that affects him mentally.
“I don’t necessarily know if it has anything to do with where my mind is at on a suspension. I’m not in control of that,” said Stevens. “All I know is that I’m going to go forward and if they mandate that I have to do something else then I’ll do that. I’m going to do whatever I have to do to be a part of this team.
“Well, Commissioner Goodell is putting new rules in place so I don’t know if I’m subject to those or not. I have no determination on that, so if it is, then that’s something I’d have to address at that time.”
Last year, Stevens played 15 regular season games (three starts) and the team's playoff contest vs. the New York Giants. He had 18 receptions for 189 yards and four touchdowns. Stevens was second on the team in touchdown receptions last year. His four touchdowns came in the final month of the season. The 6-foot-7, 260-pound Stevens re-signed with the Buccaneers on May 30. Pewter Report reported that the contract was for one season worth $700,000 and did not include a signing bonus.
Stevens was not re-signed by the Bucs in the initial wave of free agency. Tampa Bay signed free agent tight ends Ben Troupe and Alex Gilmore. Some felt that the Buccaneers delayed in re-signing Stevens due to the story in the Seattle Times. With the attention brought on the team for the signing, Allen was questioned whether the controversy is a distraction for the team and if the news of the court settlement will have a hangover effect.
“It’s not a distraction,” said Allen. “Our team, if you were out at practice – sorry, it was closed to the media – we had a great practice today. We had about 98 percent turnout. I’ll stress to you again that the character on this team is outstanding, and the leadership on this team is outstanding. We’re focused on getting better as a football team.
“No, it’s not going to hang over the team. Jeremy can speak about those issues. We addressed this with Jeremy last season beforehand, as I’m sure the Seahawks did when he was on their team after that settlement was done – I think in 2004. He was a vital member of their Super Bowl team.”
In 2005, Stevens was part of the Seahawks team that won the NFC and lost in the Super Bowl to the Pittsburgh Steelers. For his career, Stevens has 148 receptions for 1,647 yards and 19 touchdowns. Stevens has knowledge of the media firestorm that has erupted in Tampa Bay over the past few days. Publically, Stevens says that it does not affect him and he is not focused on it.
“I’m aware of it,” said Stevens. “But I haven’t paid it too much mind because it doesn’t affect what I have to do and what I’m trying to do. But I’m aware of what’s going on. It’s not something I can control, so I don’t focus on it. I’m doing everything I can to try and move forward. It's not surprising for me, but it is what is, I guess.”
Over the past few seasons, the NFL has been imposing harsher penalties on players who run into legal trouble. Dallas Cowboys cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones was suspended for all of last season as a member of the Tennessee Titans. Former Cincinnati Bengals receiver Chris Henry and Cowboys defensive tackle Tank Johnson had a half-year suspension each. Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick was suspended indefinitely. With the NFL placing a high value on good behavior, reporters questioned Allen whether character was important to the Buccaneers organization.
“Character is [important]. With not only the Buccaneers now, but how I was raised – character is one of the number one attributes,” remarked Allen. “But what we do look for is a great teammate on the field and off the field. We feel our character here can help people better themselves and put them in the right environment with the right infrastructure and they will excel. Last year, Jerramy was a good teammate on and off the field and we did not have any issues with him whatsoever. Our rules here at the Buccaneers are more stringent than the league rules, and many other jobs that you are going to find in America. We’re not allowed to drug test. The league does that. But what we expect out of players is very firm and it’s done face-to-face with the players.”
For his part, Stevens claims to lead a different lifestyle now then what he did in college, and early in his NFL career. He also claims to have learned from his mistakes.
“Yeah I just learned, well, the most important thing that I think I’ve learned is that perception is the reality,” said Stevens. “For people in public office, I’m not in public office, but I’m somebody that is in the public’s eye, so regardless of the person that I am. You have to be really guarded as to what you do in public in your actions, and realize those actions have consequences, and their further-reaching then you understand.
“I didn’t understand some of the consequences when I made those mistakes, but I definitely came to grips with it when it happened. That’s what I’ve learned is to be really careful about the steps that you take because everything is watched. I think a bigger part of that is I’ve just become a better person in the lifestyle I’m leading.
“It is not the same as the way I live right now. The way that I’m approaching life is way different at this point then how I was when I was 22 or 19. I’m 28. I have a son now. I’m trying to focus on that, and do the right thing for him, and trying to be someone who is a role model for my son.”
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