Irvin's no-contest agreement ends trial NFL likely to impose 4-game suspension

July 16, 1996|By Michael Sokolove | Michael Sokolove,KNIGHT-RIDDER NEWS SERVICE

With his defense going reasonably well but his image taking a daily beating, Dallas Cowboys star Michael Irvin put a stop to his trial yesterday by pleading no contest to possession of cocaine.

Irvin is expected to be on the field tomorrow in Austin, Texas, when the Cowboys open training camp, although the NFL probably will suspend him for the first four games of the regular season.

Training camp "starts this week, and Michael's going to be there and be right along with his teammates, doing what he can to help the Cowboys return to victory again," Don Godwin, one of his defense lawyers, said after the deal was struck.

The plea bargain offered something for both sides.

It assured the prosecution that it would not lose a high-profile case against one of the biggest celebrities in Dallas -- which seemed possible over the last week as Irvin's high-priced defense team succeeded in making the suburban police force that gathered evidence against him seem inept.

For Irvin, the deal assured that he would not go to jail, and cut off the torrent of testimony on his fondness for topless dancers and drugs.

The NFL's customary penalty for first-time violators of its drug policy is a four-game suspension.

The $3-million-a-year wide receiver is expected to be sentenced today to four years' probation and a $10,000 fine.

The deal also will apparently end an investigation into the possibility that Irvin tried to intimidate witness Rachelle Smith -- a charge that would have been more serious than the drug counts.

Although Irvin's football career can pick up where it left off after a suspension, other parts of his life will not fall so neatly back into place.

His wife, Sandi, did not attend the trial, and Irvin's family situation is unclear.

He has lost all his endorsements -- his annual off-the-field income was said to be $1 million a year -- and his image in Dallas is battered.

Pub Date: 7/16/96

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