FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — Atlanta Falcons head coach Mike Smith on Tuesday said he has spoken to starting running back Michael Turner about the player’s arrest on suspicion of DUI earlier in the day and expressed to Turner his disappointment.
Tuesday is a mandated off day for the players under the NFL’s collective-bargaining agreement, and Smith did not say whether he met in person with Turner or merely spoke to him via the phone. Smith also refused to get into specifics in regards to his conversation with Turner, who led the NFC in rushing last season but has struggled this year in new coordinator Dirk Koetter’s system that emphasizes the pass more.
Turner has rushed 28 times this season for 74 yards and a touchdown in the 2-0 Falcons’ first two games.
“First and foremost, let me say any time a player sheds negatively on our football team and on our organization, we are very disappointed,” Smith said. “This is a legal matter that it’s very well defined how we have to proceed with it through the league, and we have to let the process run its course.
“I want to emphasize I’ve spoken with Michael, we’ve had a conversation and like all conversations with all my players would like to keep those internally. He knows we’re disappointed with the decisions he made after the ballgame last night.”
Smith likely was referring to the fact that Turner now likely will be subject to policies under the league’s substance abuse program. Under the policy, players can be fined up to a maximum of $50,000 and can be disciplined further for additional arrests. That most likely would not occur until Turner’s case works its way through the legal system. In September 2011, Braylon Edwards reportedly was fined $50,000 for an arrest on a DUI charge, which came a year earlier.
The league reportedly is trying to increase the penalties for players under DUI, but that is up to negotiation with the National Football League Players Association.
Smith cited the league’s policies when he was asked if Turner would play on Sunday.
“There’s certain parameters set in place by the collective-bargaining agreement, which is between the NFL and the NFLPA,” Smith said. “Those guidelines will be followed in terms of what we can and what we cannot do. If there’s going to be any internal discipline, that discipline will stay internally. Those will be conversations that we have with Michael and that we’ve already had this morning.”
Smith refused to discuss what discipline the Falcons might take against Turner.
“I don’t want to discuss the options we have,” he said. “Again, it’s collectively bargained between the NFL and NFLPA. This is a legal matter. It’s got to run its course and it will, and I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to talk any more about it.”
Smith was asked if he were concerned that Turner’s arrest came at a time of what appears to be declining production. The 30-year-old had a key 15-yard run late in the game to help run out the clock but still only finished with 42 yards on 17 carries. On the Falcons’ first possession, it took Turner three tries from the 1-yard line to score.
“You can’t speculate on that at all,” Smith said. “Again, we’re very disappointed any time a player sheds a negative light on our football team and our organization. I can’t say any more than that.”
Turner was booked at the Gwinnett County jail. His charges also include speeding for allegedly going 97 mph in a 65 zone.
In 2008, the Falcons signed Turner to a six-year, $34.5-million contract that paid off immediately in the first year, as Turner rushed for 1,699 yards, second-best in the NFL, and was named a first-team All-Pro. He was named a second-team All-Pro in 2010 and owns the franchise record for career rushing touchdowns with 50.
He is making $5 million this season and is set to earn $5.5 million next season, with a cap hit of $8 million, making him a potential cap casualty next season.