Cardinals coach, players ‘totally shocked’ by Dwyer’s arrest
TEMPE, Ariz. — The Cardinals on Thursday attempted to remain focused on Sunday’s game against the 49ers, but news of running back Jonathan Dwyer’s arrest the day before dictated the day.
Cardinals coach Bruce Arians made an unscheduled media appearance to address Dwyer’s situation — which include allegations he head-butted his wife and threw a shoe at his 17-month-old son in July. Arians laid out the team’s course of action going forward and took a strong stance on domestic violence.
"We’ll allow the court systems to take care of what is true and what isn’t true," Arians said. "Up until then, until he’s exonerated he will not be a member of this football team. If and when he is exonerated, I would gladly take him back."
The Cardinals placed Dwyer on the non-football illness list Thursday, meaning he cannot play for the team again this season.
Arians said he was "floored" when police showed up at the Cardinals facility late Wednesday morning.
"For me personally, I was totally shocked because I’ve known Jon a long time, and it was totally out of character from what I’ve known," Arians said. "I was extremely shocked by the incident."
Similar sentiments were shared in the Cardinals locker room, where Dwyer prepared for practice not long before he was taken from the team’s facility for questioning and later arrested. Dwyer was described as a quiet, hardworking teammate who always had a smile on his face. No one expected him to become embroiled in a situation like this.
"It’s shocking," linebacker Larry Foote said. "It’s really shocking."
Foote was especially surprised given the relationship he developed with Dwyer the last few years. Dwyer and Foote were teammates with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2012, and Foote said he and his wife had spent time with Dwyer and his wife numerous times. Just this offseason, Foote said, the couples attended a Christian conference in San Diego and there did not seem to be any problems in Dwyer’s relationship with his wife.
"I was surprised," Foote said. "I got a thousand phone calls from people back in Pittsburgh like, ‘What’s going on?’ A lot of people just can’t believe it. I’m more sad for the family because it’s a young, beautiful family that just had a little boy. From outside it looked like everything was smooth."
Arians said Dwyer, too, was in shock when they spoke Wednesday before Dwyer left the team’s headquarters with Phoenix police officers. Arians said Dwyer denied the allegations.
Arians took a strong stance on domestic violence and said the issue is particularly important to him after his wife spent 18 years as a court-appointed special advocate. The NFL has seen a rash of domestic violence cases lately, but Arians said the issues aren’t just cropping up now.
"I think they’ve been going on for a long, long time and finally people are becoming aware of it and doing something about it," Arians said. "I think anyone who touches a woman or child, in my opinion, needs to go to jail for a long time."
Players similarly condemned Dwyer’s alleged actions but remained supportive of the 25-year-old as a teammate.
"I know (in) relationships a lot of things are said that shouldn’t be said, a lot of things happen that shouldn’t happen, but me first as a man, I don’t condone hitting any woman," Foote said. "I don’t care what scenario is. I really feel bad for that family."
Added linebacker Lorenzo Alexander: "We’re going to be there for him. You never want to throw a guy under the bus. Obviously we want him to recognize what he did was wrong, just help him through it, get him the help that he needs."
Arians said the news of the allegations against Dwyer was like "the worst nightmare a coach can have." He said he takes the approach that his players are his children, making this a particularly difficult situation.
"If this was my son, I would have a very hard time dealing with it," Arians said.
Arians also said the current domestic violence conversation should go beyond the microscope of the NFL.
"This is a serious problem in the nation and the world," Arians said. "If this bad scar on the NFL, as you want to say, right now makes the rest of the world more aware of what’s going on, it’s damn good."
Dwyer’s situation dominated all post-practice conversations and drew a crowd of media much larger than usual. Receiver Larry Fitzgerald said he hadn’t seen the amount of media present Thursday since the Cardinals were in the Super Bowl six seasons ago.
Despite all the extra attention, the Cardinals say they remained focused on Sunday’s game and aren’t viewing Dwyer’s situation as a distraction.
"Right now we’re just trying to focus on what we can, and that’s getting a win this week," Fitzgerald said. "We understand there’s a lot of eyes on us, so we have to hone in."
The team replaced Dwyer on the roster by re-signing running back Jalen Parmele.
The Cardinals also released running back Chris Rainey from the practice squad. Rainey was accused of slapping his girlfriend in 2013 and was cut by the Pittsburgh Steelers following his arrest. Arians said Rainey’s release was not related to that history but instead was a football move. Kerwynn Williams replaced Rainey on the practice squad.