INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis Colts punter Pat McAfee has become an example for his teammates headed into the team’s bye week — and not in a good way.
Indianapolis suspended McAfee for one game on Wednesday, a little more than 12 hours after the 23-year-old was arrested for public intoxication. Police said McAfee took a pre-dawn swim in a city canal and told them “I am drunk” as he tried to explain why he was sopping wet in the Broad Ripple neighborhood, a trendy area known for its nightlife.
Officers say the second-year player from West Virginia had a blood-alcohol content of 0.15 percent, nearly twice the legal limit for driving in Indiana. He was released from custody just before noon, about six hours after his arrest.
According to the police report, McAfee was asked whether he was swimming in the canal and answered, “I am not sure.” When he was asked why he was wet, McAfee responded, “It was raining.” When he was asked where his shirt was, McAfee said, “In the water.” And when he was asked how much he had to drink, McAfee said, “A lot ’cause I’m drunk.”
McAfee was not released from custody before Indy practiced and was not in the locker room during the 45-minute media availability following practice. By then, radio talk shows and local blogs had turned McAfee into the butt of jokes.
Not surprisingly, the Colts found no humor in it. They’ve now had four players arrested on alcohol-related charges this year.
“I talk about it more often than the bye weeks,” coach Jim Caldwell said. “But that’s not the issue. What I’ve been doing hasn’t been enough. So the fact of the matter is we’ve got to get it straightened out.”
The Associated Press sent an e-mail seeking comment from Colts owner Jim Irsay and left two messages at the office of McAfee’s attorney, Jim Voyles.
Team president Bill Polian said the Colts decided to suspend McAfee for next weekend’s Houston Texans game, which could be a big loss for the Colts in a key AFC South game. McAfee could also face NFL penalties under the substance-abuse policy.
Police were called after a driver at a red light reported that a man with no shirt approached her car. The woman told police she feared the man was going to try to get in, so she ran the red light and called 911.
McAfee then told police he was waiting for a friend to get him but also that he planned to take a taxi home, the report said. He asked if he could walk home, but officers arrested him. They say he smelled of alcohol, his eyes were watery and bloodshot and his speech slurred.
Officers said they had to help McAfee stand up after giving him a breath alcohol test.
Some teammates were already offering assistance.
“Look, it’s my job as Pat’s friend and teammate to be there and support him, and I know that sounds like a company line, but it’s not,” receiver Anthony Gonzalez said. “It’s the truth. We have to be there to help him.”
Teammates also understand that another arrest has again damaged the Colts’ mostly clean-cut reputation.
In January, Colts receiver Taj Smith was stopped by police on suspicion of drunken driving. Smith spent last season on the Colts’ practice squad but was cut Sept. 4.
In August, backup defensive lineman John Gill was arrested for public intoxication after Indianapolis police found Gill passed out in a ditch. The charge was later dropped, but Polian said then that Gill would be placed in a roster category that would keep him inactive all season.
On Sept. 3, defensive tackle Fili Moala was arrested for driving while intoxicated, public intoxication and speeding.
And now it’s McAfee, a fun-loving young player whose Twitter bio reads in part “welcome to the partyy.”
“What coach says from the beginning of training camp is expected to be carried out,” left tackle Charlie Johnson said. “Nobody feels worse than the guys that got in trouble. But they hurt the team’s image and, hopefully, we don’t have anything else happen like this.”
Players insist there is not a drinking problem in Indianapolis.
“Look, we’re all human, we all make mistakes and we’d all like to take something back that we did when were younger,” running back Joseph Addai said. “It’s what you do afterward that makes the difference. The biggest thing is being a man, accepting your mistake and moving forward.”
Which is precisely what Caldwell intends to do Thursday before players leave town for the bye week.
“We talk about it, we talk about it often,” Caldwell said. “One time is too many and we’ve had a few more than we’d like.”
McAfee is averaging 44.7 yards per kick, has placed eight punts inside the opponents’ 20-yard line and has had 11 touchbacks on kickoffs. Only two teams — the Seattle Seahawks and Atlanta Falcons — have forced opponents to start drives deeper than McAfee after kickoffs.