Browns' Bodden pleads not guilty, will play in opener

BEREA, Ohio -- Cleveland Browns starting cornerback Leigh Bodden is looking forward to telling his side of the story after being arrested.

The NFL will listen carefully.

Bodden faces possible discipline from the league under commissioner Roger Goodell's crackdown on player misconduct after being charged with aggravated disorderly conduct and resisting arrest as he tried to pick up his girlfriend and their two children at Cleveland's major airport.

The 25-year-old Bodden, regarded as one of the Browns' quieter and more easygoing players, pleaded not guilty on Thursday to misdemeanor charges less than 24 hours after police accused him of driving in reverse down a one-way street and becoming verbally abusive.

Bodden will play in Cleveland's season opener on Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Before Thursday's practice, he apologized to his coaches and teammates before meeting with reporters.

"You all know there are two sides to every story," he said. "Right now I can't comment on my side. My attorney will handle that. It's unfortunate that this is a distraction."

Browns coach Romeo Crennel downplayed Bodden's arrest, referring to it as "a little run in with the law" and a "minor traffic incident." Crennel also said he wasn't bothered by the nature of the charges.

"I could look at a guy cross-eyed and he could charge me with something for looking at him wrong. No fisticuffs occurred, or anything, to my knowledge. I am going to wait until I find out all the facts before I make any kind of judgment," Crennel said.

"You don't anticipate something like that happening from him, so when something like that occurs with an easygoing guy, there may be more to it than just the easygoing guy going off the deep end."

According to police, Bodden was spotted driving his sports utility vehicle in reverse inside a passenger-arrivals area. He was approached by an officer, who informed Bodden to pull over, police Lt. Thomas Stacho said.

After refusing, Bodden eventually parked his SUV illegally. He got out and walked toward an airport entrance and became verbally abusive with the officer, who called for police backup, Stacho said.

Responding officers instructed Bodden to place his hands on a wall, which he did, but the situation became tense when the player began to resist officers trying to place handcuffs on him, Stacho said.

Bodden was taken to a city jail and detained for five hours before being released early Thursday on a $1,000 bond. He also faces traffic charges of failing to produce a driver's license and driving the wrong way on a one-way street.

Bodden is scheduled to appear in court for a pretrial conference on Sept. 25, his lawyer, Matt Selby said. The charges carry a sentence of up to six months in jail.

Bodden potentially faces a fine or suspension from the league, which instituted a tougher player-conduct policy in the wake of several highly publicized arrests and cases, highlighted by Atlanta quarterback Michael Vick's involvement in a dogfighting ring.

Bodden said he's not concerned about any punishment from the league.

"The legal system will handle it," he said. "The league will handle it, and there's nothing I can do about it but play football, and that's what I'm going to do."

The NFL's conduct policy states that players can face disciplinary measures for offenses such as those Bodden is charged with. It says, "persons who fail to live up to this standard of conduct are guilty of conduct detrimental and subject to discipline, even where the conduct itself does not result in conviction of a crime."

The policy also says that unless the pending case involves significant bodily harm, "a first offense will generally not involve discipline until there has been a disposition of the proceeding."

"It will be reviewed under the personal conduct policy," league spokesman Greg Aiello said. "There won't be any disciplinary action prior to this weekend."

Bodden's arrest surprised some of his teammates, who couldn't imagine him getting into trouble.

"I never envisioned him being belligerent to anyone," linebacker Andra Davis said. "I never even saw the guy get mad. The stuff I heard last night on TV, I wasn't feeding into that. Bod is a great guy, one of the stand-up guys around here. Everybody knows how humble he is. I don't believe in any of that stuff that they said."

Bodden's arrest came on the same day that the Browns named five team captains, another offshoot of Goodell's attempt to clean up player behavior. While discussing the addition of captains on Wednesday, Hall of Famer Jim Brown, an executive adviser to owner Randy Lerner, predicted the Browns would have no issues in 2007.

"There will probably be fewer incidents with our players than any team in the league, based upon what we put upon them from the standpoint of their responsibility to the team and the city," Brown said.

"Nonsense is not tolerated."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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