The NFL suspended Jim Irsay for the first six games of the season and fined him $500,000 for violating its personal conduct policy, coming down hard on the Indianapolis Colts owner Tuesday just hours after he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor stemming from an embarrassing March traffic stop.
Commissioner Roger Goodell said Irsay is barred from team facilities, practices and games, and cannot represent the Colts at NFL meetings or events. The fine is the maximum allowed under league rules.
‘‘I have stated on numerous occasions that owners, management personnel and coaches must be held to a higher standard than players,’’ Goodell told Irsay in a letter released by the NFL. ‘‘We discussed this during our meeting and you expressed your support for that view, volunteering that owners should be held to the highest standard.’’
The 55-year-old Irsay pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of driving while intoxicated and acknowledged during his appearance before a Hamilton County (Ind.) judge that he was under the influence of the painkillers oxycodone and hydrocodone when he was arrested March 16 near his home in the Indianapolis suburb of Carmel.
Irsay did not comment outside the courtroom, but he apologized to Colts fans in a prepared statement.
‘‘I am committed to do everything in my power to turn this whole experience into a positive event for myself, my family and the community,’’ he said. ‘‘In retrospect, I now know that the incident opened my eyes to issues in my life that needed addressing and helped put me on the path to regain my health. I truly hope and pray that my episode will help in some small measure to diminish the stigma surrounding our country’s terrible and deadly problem of addiction. It is a disease.’’
Irsay’s case was closely watched around the NFL — not least among players — because there are few examples of the league punishing an owner like Irsay. Detroit Lions president Tom Lewand was suspended for 30 days and fined $100,000 in 2010 for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy following his guilty plea to driving while impaired. A player with a first-offense misdemeanor DUI would not be suspended and would be fined no more than $50,000 under terms of the collective bargaining agreement with the NFL Players Association.
Police said an officer spotted Irsay driving slowly, stopping in the roadway and failing to use a turn signal. Officers said he had trouble reciting the alphabet and failed field sobriety tests. Various prescription drugs were found in his vehicle, along with more than $29,000 in cash.
Irsay acknowledged in 2002 that he had become dependent on painkillers after several years of orthopedic operations but said he had overcome the problem.
Irsay will be on probation for a year and is prohibited from drinking or possessing alcohol during that time. He must submit to drug testing during his probation and successfully complete a substance abuse rehabilitation program. Less than 48 hours after his arrest, the Colts said Irsay had entered a treatment facility.
Irsay’s driver’s license also was suspended for one year by Judge J. Richard Campbell, who asked Irsay about his history of prescription drug troubles.
‘‘Yes, I've had it in the past ... when I was dealing with the effects after having surgery,’’ Irsay answered.
Andre Miksha, the Hamilton County chief deputy prosecutor, said Irsay’s case wasn’t handled differently than the roughly 1,100 other intoxicated driving cases the office handles each year. He said the ‘‘vast majority’’ of such cases end in plea agreements.
He also said the terms of Irsay’s plea agreement are typical for a person who faced first-time driving while intoxicated charges in the county just north of Indianapolis.
Irsay had resumed his duties with the Colts at the NFL draft in May and even made an unsuccessful personal pitch to his fellow owners on behalf of Indianapolis’ bid to host the 2018 Super Bowl.
Irsay became the Colts owner in 1997 after the death of his father, Robert Irsay, and a lengthy legal battle with his father’s second wife. Forbes magazine has estimated Irsay’s net worth at $1.6 billion.
He has helped build the Colts into a top NFL team over the past decade behind quarterback Peyton Manning, now with Denver, and was a key player in the drive to bring the Super Bowl to Indianapolis two years ago. He is working with some success to rebuild the team behind young quarterback Andrew Luck while coping with a divorce that follows a decade-long separation from his wife of 33 years.
Irsay told the judge he is still under the care of a doctor and an orthopedic specialist who prescribe medications for him. Under terms of his probation, Irsay must provide officials with all current medication prescriptions. The NFL said Irsay will be subject to ongoing treatment, counseling and testing as determined by doctors.
Irsay, who is active on social media, is also forbidden from discussing the Colts or NFL on his Twitter account.
Watt signs new deal
Star defensive end J.J. Watt agreed to terms on a contract extension with the Texans.
Watt’s deal is reportedly worth $100 million, including a $10 million signing bonus and $51.8 million in guaranteed money overall. He’s now signed through the 2021 season.
He expressed his desire for a new contract last month as the Texans were practicing with the Denver Broncos.
The 25-year-old Watt has emerged as one of the league’s more dominant players, with 74 tackles for loss, 36½ sacks, and 27 pass breakups since he joined the league in 2011.
Harbaugh: No tolerance
San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh reiterated the team will not tolerate domestic violence.
Harbaugh gave his comments and maintained a firm stance about the topic during a radio segment two days after 49ers defensive tackle Ray McDonald was arrested on felony domestic violence charges.
‘‘You ask me how I feel about domestic violence. I can be very clear about that,’’ Harbaugh said. ‘‘If someone physically abuses a woman and/or physically or mentally abuses or hurts a child, then there’s no understanding. There’s no tolerance for that.’’
McDonald, 30, is out on $25,000 bail following his arrest in an upscale San Jose neighborhood early Sunday. McDonald’s arrest came after Goodell announced tougher penalties for players accused of domestic violence, including a six-week suspension for a first offense and at least a year for a second.
The move followed scrutiny over Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice’s two-game penalty stemming from his arrest on an assault charge in February.
While Harbaugh cautioned against any rush to judgment regarding McDonald’s arrest, he also said Tuesday that he would not allow any player who was found guilty of domestic violence on his team.
‘‘Yes, we would not. We can be very clear (on that),’’ Harbaugh said.
The coach also did not rule out McDonald, an eight-year veteran, from practicing Tuesday as the 49ers prepare for their season opener Sunday at Dallas.
Harbaugh said he did not know all of the details surrounding McDonald’s arrest, who is scheduled to appear in court on Sept. 15.
‘‘This is a legal matter. I think we all owe, to everyone involved, the ability for due process to take place,’’ Harbaugh said. ‘‘All the questions you could ask me, I understand why you’re asking, but this is a process that has to conducted, has to be concluded, and then we'll be in a better place in time to have this discussion and or make judgments.’’
McDonald’s arrest came two days after linebacker Aldon Smith received a nine-game suspension for violations of the NFL substance-abuse and personal-conduct policies.
When asked about the 49ers having players arrested an NFL-high 10 times since 2012, Harbaugh said Tuesday that the team is doing ‘‘everything in our power to make sure there isn’t a pattern forming.’’
‘‘I as a coach, the organization, the other coaches, have made it a point and we'll continue to make it a point of emphasis of good conduct, 100 percent of the time,’’ Harbaugh said. ‘‘We believe it’s personal. We believe it’s part of our responsibility.’’
Sam to visit Cowboys
Michael Sam, who was released by the Rams Saturday, will visit and take a physical with the Cowboys, ESPN.com reported.
Sam, the first openly gay player drafted by the NFL, is seeking to take the next step — playing in the NFL.
If Sam passes his physical, the Cowboys will sign him to their practice squad.
Sam was drafted by the Rams in the seventh round after a stellar career at Missouri.
Brent can return
Cowboys defensive tackle Josh Brent is being allowed to return to the NFL, though he will be suspended for the first 10 games of the season. Brent retired last year and was sentenced to 180 days in jail after a trial in January in the intoxication manslaughter death of teammate Jerry Brown, a practice squad linebacker for the Cowboys . . . The Chiefs suffered a blow by placing linebacker Joe Mays on injured reserve with a designation to return. Mays had surgery to repair damage in his wrist he sustained in the preseason . . . Jets safety Antonio Allen was medically cleared after suffering a concussion Aug. 22 . . . Charlie Powell, the San Diego sports star who was one of the first black NFL players and later became a boxer and fought Cassius Clay, died Monday at a San Diego hospital. He was 82.