Most NFL teams offer players safe rides programs

NEW YORK -- Braylon Edwards didn't have to get behind the wheel. He could have made a simple phone call and avoided arrest for driving drunk.

The New York Jets receiver didn't take advantage of two programs aimed at preventing just what happened Tuesday by providing players rides when they are too impaired to drive.

More than two-thirds of the 32 NFL teams, including the Jets, have such programs, which stress confidentiality. The NFL Players Association also has a program, and the league has one for non-players.

The union's round-the-clock program, which it took over from the league in 2009 at the NFLPA's request, is available in all NFL cities and some additional areas. There are no out-of-pocket fees for players except the cost of the ride.

"We wanted to do it for every player," NFLPA spokesman George Atallah said. "If it overlaps with a team's program, great."

The NFL's program, Safe Ride Solutions, covers all other club and NFL employees.

The overlapping programs of the union and the Jets -- theirs is called PlayerProtect -- apparently were ignored by Edwards. He was arraigned on drunken-driving charges Tuesday after a breath test showed he had a blood-alcohol level twice the legal limit when he was stopped on Manhattan's West Side around 5 a.m., prosecutors said.

PlayerProtect promotes itself as "a 24-hour, full service security and security driving company that caters exclusively to professional athletes. PlayerProtect agents are current or former law enforcement officers and are authorized to carry their weapons in all 50 states. Security details can also be arranged for locations outside the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area for an additional fee."

Twenty-two of the 32 teams told The Associated Press they have programs for the players that supplement the union's coverage.

Six teams did not respond to requests for information on safe rides for players: Carolina Panthers, New England Patriots, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers, San Francisco 49ers and the Seattle Seahawks.

The Chicago Bears said they don't have a program. Spokesman Scott Hagel said in an e-mail to the AP: "My understanding is the NFLPA has a service that accommodates all the NFL teams."

The Cleveland Browns said they are in discussions with a company to provide supplemental coverage to the union's policy for players.

Neither of the 2010 Super Bowl teams provided information. Spokesmen for the New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts both said they don't discuss such programs.

The Buffalo Bills are among the most proactive teams in trying to safeguard players who recognize they shouldn't get behind the wheel. The Bills have two programs: "A Safe Way Home" and "Designated Drivers of Buffalo."

Front-office personnel also encourage players to use the NFLPA program "when they are outside of Buffalo, at home, for example, during the offseason," Bills spokesman Scott Berchtold said in an e-mail.

"We first recommend to players that if they are going out as a group to plan ahead and select one person who will refrain from drinking alcohol and serve as a designated driver," Berchtold said. "If they are not planning to select a designated driver from the group or if they are not in a group setting, we have two programs they can utilize."

The Texans have a similar program with Red Carpet, a Houston transportation company. Players and other employees set up service with the company individually, so the Texans aren't necessarily aware if any employee uses the service -- unless charges aren't paid.

"Again, use of Red Carpet is voluntary, but we encourage you to use this service or some alternate means of transportation should you find yourself in an impaired situation," the team says in a letter to all its employees, including players. "Your safety and the safety of others are critical."

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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