NFL: Plaxico Burress Added to Long List of Mixing Players with Violence

Jen PrestonSenior Analyst IDecember 6, 2008

It's the hiring of body guards. It's the buying of guns. It's the purchasing of bullet proof cars and never traveling in public alone. They live by "if ADT has it to offer, I've got it."

This is now the life of an NFL player.

"You have people threatening you, wanting something, wanting to hurt you," Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger said, "and it's happened before, so you've got to watch what you are doing."

With the latest incident involving New York Giant and Super Bowl hero Plaxico Burress, I decided to take a look back at some of the NFL's many problems with players and violence.

1. Rae Carruth

The year 1997 was a good year for Rae Carruth. He was a first round draft pick for the new Carolina Panthers, an all star in his days at the University of Colorado. After winning rookie of the year, big things were expected out of his surely long stay in the NFL.

But injuries plagued Carruth in 1998 and 1999. Instead of recovering from knee problems, Carruth threw away his professional football career and his freedom.

In mid-November, 1999, Carruth and his then girlfriend, 24-year-old Cherica Adams, were driving in separate cars to her apartment after their date. Adams was eight months pregnant with their child.

According to Adams' 911 call, the Panthers receiver had stopped in front of her when an SUV drove up along side her, shooting her four times.

"Somebody pulled up beside me and did this. ... I think he (Carruth) did it. I don't know what to think." she told 911.

Carruth went to the hospital where Adams was transported, and their son was delivered by emergency C-Section. She also wrote notes to doctors before losing consciousness, implicating the father of her child.

Charges against the four men charged—Carruth and three other men—were to upgraded to murder if Chancellor, Adams' son, or Adams' died.

Adams died on Dec. 14, 1999. Then Carruth ran.

An hour after learning of her deat,h Carruth left to hide in Tennessee with a female friend who drove him. Twenty-one hours later he was found by police and eventually extradited to face trial.

Van Brett Watkins, 24 at the time, was questioned by police and would later be identified as the shooter. First, he claimed Adams was shot after Carruth backed out of a drug deal, which was Carruth's defense during his trial. 

Watkins pleaded guilty to first degree murder, among other charges, after admitting Carruth hired him to kill Adams to get out of paying child support. He was sentenced to at least 40 years in prison.

Two other assaliants—Michael Kennedy who drove the SUV and Stanley Abraham, who was also in the car—were sentenced to 11 years, eight months and 90 days and five years probation, respectively.

Carruth stood trial, which was filled with overwhelming evidence against him, including Watkins testimony, testimonies from ex-girlfriends, Adams' family and finally Adams' 911 call.

"She was drowning in her own blood. You could hear a gurgling sound," Watkins said on the stand.

On Jan. 19, 2001, Carruth was acquitted on first-degree murder charges, but found guilty of conspiracy, shooting into an occupied vehicle and using an instrument (a .38 caliber gun) to kill or cause harm to an unborn child.

He is still serving his nearly 19-year sentence.

2. Ray Lewis

It was 10 weeks after the mess with Carruth started that Ravens' linebacker Ray Lewis faced his own murder trial.

Accussed of stabbing two men, Richard Lollar and Jacinth Baker, to death, Lewis and two co-defendants went on trial in early 2000.

The alleged incident occurred after a Super Bowl party the last day of January the same year, when, after a fight broke out, Lollar and Baker were stabbed to death in Atlanta.

Lewis lied to police during his interview following the incident, saying he didn't know the other two suspects. All three were tried on first degree murder and aggravated assault charges.

In June 2000, six months after the incident, Lewis pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice, a misdemeanor, and avoided jail time.

He was sentenced to a year of probation and the NFL fined him $250,000. Lewis then returned to Ravens' camp. A first time offender, when Lewis completed his probation, his record was wiped clean.

Reginald Oakley and Joseph Sweeting, Lewis' co-defendants, were found not guilty of all charges against them.

3. Joey Porter

Pittsburgh Steeler's linebacker Joey Porter wasn't the assailant in August, 2003—he was the victim. After going to a University of Colorado game, Porter was shot and critically injured. He was one of six people shot. The one person killed had alleged gang ties.

"He's very, very lucky," former coach Bill Cowher said. "He's a lucky young man. I think that's the perspective we need to have at this time. Joey's going to be fine. He's a special guy, and he'll be back."

Porter was forced to miss the first two games of the season due to the shooting, but did recover.

Gang violence was suspected. No one was charged.

"I saw him Sunday, spent about an hour with him. He was very frightened," said Sonny Lubick, Porter's coach at Colorado State University. "It could have been a lot worse."

4. Dunta Robinson

Violence, unfortunately, isn't limited to when players go out at night. Sometimes it even enters their homes.

Then 24-year-old Texan Dunta Robinson experienced this fear first hand in September 2007. He was home along when two armed gunmen entered his home, bound him, and began stealing from the Missouri City, TX home. Robinson's long time girlfriend and two children entered the home after a day of shopping during the robbery. They were thrown into a closet but weren't harmed.

Terrance DeMond Johnson was arrested later that month during a drug sweep and was wearing one of Robinson's stolen watches. He was eventually sentenced to 25 years in prison. The second suspect was never found.

Robinson recently told the Associated Press he now is a gun owner, and the he feels much safer with it.

5. Darrent Williams

On Jan. 1, 2007, around two o'clock in the morning, 24-year-old Darrent Williams sat in his limousine with three friends outside a Denver night club.

More than a dozen bullets flew into the limo, busting out a window. Two passengers—Bradon Floweres (not of the Kansas City Chiefs) and Nicole Reindl—were injured and released later that day.

Williams was shot in the neck and died instantly in the arms of teammate Javon Walker.

"All of us are devastated by this tragedy," Broncos owner Pat Bowlen said in a statement. "To lose a young player, and more important, a great young man such as Darrent Williams, is incomprehensible. To lose him in such a senseless manner as this is beyond words."

Police scrabbled to find answers in the case. Walker alleged that another teammate, Brandon Marshall, and his cousin got into an argument with men inside the club, and that could've sparked the shooting.

Four days after Williams' murder, gang member Willie D. Clark was arrested on parole violation.

A letter to the Rocky Mountain News was allegedly written by Clark, saying "(Blank) might say somethin stupd talk to law enforcements about the death of D-Will (Williams).

(Blank) seen me withe gun + shoot out the whip (car)."

Clark wasn't charged with Williams' murder until Oct. 8, 2008—nearing two years after D-Will's tragic death. The suspect was also charged with 38 other offenses, including drug and weapons charges and attempted murder.

"We've been waiting for this for a long time. Hopefully they have all their ducks in a row and everything will work out the way we hope it will," he said. "I hope in some way it brings comfort to D-Will's mom and his family. You can't do anything to bring him back but if it after all these years gives a little comfort to them, hopefully it will." long snapper Mike Leach said.

Weeks later, Clark was charged with two other murders. He'll likely go to trial sometime in mid to late 2009.

Williams' death, and the natural death of fellow 24-year-old teammate Damien Nash hung over the Broncos' organization the following season. D-Will is survived by his mother, Rosalind, his then seven year old son Darius, his then four year daughter Jaelyn, and his long time girlfriend who's raising his children in his hometown of Fort Worth. Nash is survived by his long time girlfriend and their young daughter.

6. Sean Taylor

A Pro-Bowl "Meast" and University of Miami alumni, Sean Taylor was in his prime when he was killed in November 2007.

Taylor was home with his long time girlfriend and their 18-month-old daughter, Jackie, when their Miami home was broken into for the second time in less than two weeks.

Confronting the burglars with a machete, Taylor was shot once in the leg, piercing his femoral artery, resulting in massive blood loss. Despite doctor's hopes that he would recover, he died the next day.

"It's times like this that all of us struggle to find meaning in life," Commissioner Roger Goodell told the mourners. "The NFL was proud of Sean Taylor... He loved football and football loved him back. But more importantly, it was what he was as a man and what he was becoming as a man."

"We are slow learners. We are in a hole looking for a shovel, when we need a rope," Reverend Jesse Jackson said of the recent violence during Taylor's funeral.

Four suspects- Venjah K. Hunte, 20; Eric Rivera Jr., 17; Jason Scott Mitchell, 19; and Charles Kendrick Lee Wardlow, 18- were arrested in December. An alleged fifth suspect has never been found. Rivera is the alleged gunmen.

Mitchell had been at Taylor's home the month before celebrating Taylor's girlfriends' 21st birthday, as well as cutting the couple's grass and doing other chores. Taylor's sister dated one the suspect's cousin.

Not facing the death penalty, the four will go on trial in late August.

7. Javon Walker

It was a year and a half after he arrived at Denver Broncos' facilities covered in the blood of a teammate when then 29-year-old Javon Walker was beaten unconscious and robbed while in Las Vegas in June of this year.

The suspects took jewelry and $3,000. A victim of a moderate concussion and cuts and bruises to the face, Walker was released a few days later from a Vegas hospital and returned to his new team, the Oakland Raiders, soon after.

Walker had visited the Vegas strip several times following the death of former teammate Darrent Williams, who was killed New Year's Day 2007, even going there the weekend of Williams' funeral.

He wore his hair in Williams' "fro-hawk" style the season following his death, presented Williams' mother with a professionally done painted portrait of herself and her only child, and has donated $30,000 to his teen center in Denver.

“He hasn't dealt with it, he just tried to move on, and believe me, you can't,” Williams' mother said. “I think he is just trying to be strong for everyone. Some men are like that. But he hasn't allowed himself to grieve.”

"It was just ironic. I'm not going to judge Javon. He's been through stuff few of us can imagine. He's really a good guy. I just hope the best for him." former teammate John Lynch said.

Both suspects—30 year old Arfat Fadel and 40 year old DeShawn Thomas—were arrested weeks after the robbery. No word on when they'll be headed to trial.

Former coach Rob Sherman, Walker's mentor while he was a Green Bay Packer, hoped Walker would reach out for help.

"It will never go away, but he needs to deal with it so he can go on," said Sherman, who lost his son to an accidental shooting in Green Bay several years ago. "Javon needs to come to grips. He is such a good guy. My daughters look at him like a big brother. He has such a good heart."

“He's a great kid,” Sherman said. “I just want the best for him."

8. Rashard Mendenhall

In May of this year, while in Chicago, Pittsburgh Steelers' first round pick Rashard Mendenhall was robbed at gunpoint. Uninjured, Mendenhall lost his wallet, Rose Bowl watch, and his cell phone.

He had his mother cancel the credit cards and cell phone. So far, no suspects have been arrested.

9. Steve Smith

Not even a month prior to his teammate Plaxico Burress being arrested on gun charges, Giants' wide receiver Steve Smith was walking in the early hours of Nov. 24 when he was robbed at gunpoint.

A gun was pointed at his head, Smith was forced to give up cash and jewelry. He wasn't injured, and the gunmen hasn't yet been found, but the investigation is ongoing.

And now, at No. 10, we have Plaxico Burress, last year's Super Bowl hero, is facing three-and-a-half to 15 years in prison for accidentally shooting himself in the leg at a night club in New York.

Burress, as you may know by now, tried to cover up the incident by giving the hospital a false name. He was suspended by the Giants for the remainder of the season after posting bond.

The charges against him could end his NFL career.

Former coach Mike Ditka says the National Football League should ban athletes from carrying guns.

However, several of them—like Dunta Robinson—carry them for safety. Several players have purchased bullet proof cars.

“I don't go out,” Eagles Pro Bowl defensive end Trent Cole said. “Only times I go out, I go to places I know are safe.”

Several teams have hired security details, and even FBI agents, to watch over players. The Denver Broncos hired a former police officer to go to Denver bars and clubs to check up on their athletes.

Maybe that's not enough. Maybe NFL players will always have to live in fear, leaving guard dogs at the door, security systems on and walk down the street with body guards for their entire playing careers.

Can anything be done to keep NFL players safe? Or is this a much bigger issue than the National Football League could ever take control of...

Thanks to CNN, New York Times, St. Petersburg Times, Court TV, Sports Illustrated, Charlotte Observer, Canada's CBC, Chicago Tribune, The Oklahoman, WSOTV (Channel 9) out of Charlotte, NC, Washington Post, FOX News, The Seattle Times, Las Vegas Sun, ESPN, The Auto Blog, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Newsday, KHOU out of Houston, TX, Houston Chronicle, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and Bloomberg for the quotes and information used in this piece.


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