Troubled Falcons safety not hiding at Pro Bowl

Broncos bury Birds, ride to Super repeat

  Wednesday, Feb. 3 10:57pm ET
Falcons' Robinson charged with solicitation
Associated Press

MIAMI -- After a Super Bowl that went terribly wrong, the Atlanta Falcons safety Eugene Robinson faced a horde of media Sunday to discuss his arrest on charges of soliciting an undercover police officer for sex the night before the biggest game of the season.

  "My lawyer has advised me not to talk about the arrest. That will be handled in due time by the proper authorities. And I feel strongly that I will be found innocent. But what I want to do now is apologize first to my Lord Jesus Christ, secondly to my wife and kids, thirdly to my teammates and the entire Atlanta Falcons organization for the distraction that I may have caused them. And I say sincerely, I really say that sincerely. I regret I was not maintaining the standards I have set for myself. I will have to continue, trust me, to make amends with everyone that knows me. I want to thank all of the people and really this is all of the football players and a lot of my friends who supported and prayed for me at this very low point. Really, I got no sleep.

However, when it came to the game tonight, I was extremely focused on the game today. It did not affect my play today because that was pretty much therapeutic. I really don't think we played well enough to win the game. I've got to take my hat off to the Denver Broncos, particularly their defense, who played an excellent game. Now, if you want to ask any questions about the game, feel free. But anything else I am really going to have to defer to my lawyer and that's going to happen in due time."

It was one part denial, one part confessional, a series of conflicting messages from a deeply religious man who had always seemed so firm in his beliefs.

"I really believe and strongly believe I will be found innocent in this deal," Robinson said. "However, I'm not righteous in this deal."

He apologized to his family, his teammates and the entire organization after causing such a shocking distraction the night before the Falcons appeared in the NFL title game for the first time in their 33-year history.

The Falcons lost 34-19 to the Denver Broncos, with Robinson burned on the game's biggest play -- an 80-yard TD pass to Rod Smith.

"I know a lot of people are saying that I'm just another hypocritical Christian," Robinson said. "I deserve that."

Falcons coach Dan Reeves allowed Robinson to start the Super Bowl, even though the player admitted that he didn't sleep at all the night before the game.

Robinson, 35, was consoled privately in his hotel room by a group of teammates -- including Cornelius Bennett, Ray Buchanan and William White -- and spent some five hours in prayer.

"It was a little distracting, but I don't think it was a major factor," Reeves said. "My major concern was whether he was going to be ready to play, and he said he was. I thought he did a good job."

Robinson added, "I was extremely focused on the game today. It didn't affect my play because (the game) was pretty much therapeutic."

Bennett, who spent more than a month in jail during the last offseason after pleading guilty to sexual misconduct, said Robinson's arrest didn't affect the rest of the team.

"We were all shocked at what happened and probably disappointed, so to speak," Bennett said. "But we still knew we had a game to play and I think we came out and played the best we can play."

It will never be known what, if any, impact that Robinson's arrest had on the Falcons. Clearly, it was an unwanted distraction for a team dominated by players making their first Super Bowl appearance.

The Falcons defense took the field just over five minutes into the game, and Robinson broke up Denver's first play: a pass from John Elway that was intended for Terrell Davis.

But Robinson was beaten by Smith down the middle of the field on the long touchdown pass, giving the Broncos a 17-3 lead late in the first half. In the third quarter, Robinson broke his left pinkie trying to tackle Davis, limiting his effectiveness the rest of the way.

 Eugene Robinson
Robinson sits by the pool Saturday afternoon at the team hotel in Miami with his wife Gia.

Afterward, Robinson lingered in the training room for nearly an hour, getting treatment on his injured finger. But he was more concerned about healing the wounds in his family.

Robinson and his wife, Gia, have an 11-year-old daughter, Brittany, and a 9-year-old son, Brandon.

"Reputation, I can deal with that," he said. "But my wife, that means much more to me. I truly love my wife. I love my kids. I'm sorry that I had to drag them through that type of deal."

He expressed confidence that his family would remain intact, saying his wife "loves me and she loves me unconditionally."

"I'm not saying she's not hurt," Robinson said. "I don't want to minimize her pain."

Police said Robinson was arrested at 9 p.m. Saturday on Biscayne Boulevard, a major street frequented by prostitutes and drug dealers. He was driving alone in a rented car when he offered an undercover officer $40 for oral sex, said police spokesman Angel Calzadilla.

The misdemeanor charge carries a maximum sentence of 60 days in jail, but most first-time offenders are offered some combination of community service, attending a course on the dangers of solicitation and a fine. The car was impounded and will cost $1,000 to retrieve.

Twenty-five people were arrested in the undercover operation, including a suspect wanted in three killings in Pennsylvania, Calzadilla said.

A few hours before his arrest, Robinson was honored with the Bart Starr Award by the religious group Athletes in Action. Balloting is conducted among NFL players to select the person who displays "high moral character."

Robinson was released from Miami police headquarters around 11 p.m. to Falcons general manager Harold Richardson. The player promised to return for a court appearance, which is usually scheduled within 30 days.

Samuel Robinson said he was in the hotel room when his son was consoled by teammates.

"He didn't say anything about what happened, and I didn't ask him," the father said. "But you could see he was crushed. I've never seen my son with that look of concern and disappointment in his entire life."

Robinson, who played in the last two Super Bowls with Green Bay, is the NFL's career leader among active players with 53 interceptions, including four this season.

"I'm not going to run from you," he vowed to the media. "I want to be a man about it."

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