Jim Irsay isn't ready to apologize. He's not even sure he should. The Indianapolis Colts owner's primary focus right now is on fighting the cycle of addiction that has haunted his family for generations.
In his first extended interview since his March 16 arrest for driving while intoxicated, Irsay declined to discuss the specifics of his ongoing legal case or the night he was pulled over by police in the Indianapolis suburb of Carmel. Authorities found multiple prescription drugs and pills inside Irsay's vehicle. He faces two misdemeanor charges connected with the arrest.
"These diseases, both alcoholism and addiction, much like bipolar or depression and different illnesses, are still not seen as real diseases," Irsay told Bob Kravitz of The Indianapolis Star.
Irsay was asked if he should apologize. "We need to let the process go forward and I'll address that later," he said. "I'm a human being; if there's something I have to apologize for, I would, but at this point, it wouldn't be appropriate. It sets me up, like if you don't say you're sorry, then why aren't you saying you're sorry, and if you say you're sorry, then you must have done something wrong."
Irsay acknowledged in 2002 that he had become dependent on painkillers after several years of orthopedic operations. Irsay has chronic pain in his hip and lower back from injuries and past surgeries. Irsay is also a recovering alcoholic but said he hasn't touched a drink in over a decade.
"In some ways, (going through rehab) is my greatest moment," Irsay said. "It takes courage to try and overcome the difficulties you have. For some reason, it's seen as unheroic. When someone beats cancer, it's like, 'Wow, that's so heroic,' but when someone has this illness, it's treated like you're a leper because that person is morally corrupt, and that's not the case."
It remains to be seen how the NFL will address Irsay's legal problems. NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said last month that the league is "reviewing the matter and will take appropriate action in accordance with the (NFL's Personal Conduct Policy)."
Irsay was asked if he believed owners should be held to a higher standard than players.
"Being an owner, I hold myself to the highest of standards," he answered. "As a father, as a grandfather, as someone who by nature of their work has this public stage, my nature is to always take that standard seriously."