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Sorrowful time

Falcons' Robinson gives postgame apology

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Posted: Monday February 01, 1999 02:14 PM

  Left behind: Eugene Robinson got caught out of position by Denver's Rod Smith (80) AP

MIAMI (CNN/SI) -- Atlanta safety Eugene Robinson's Super Bowl troubles continued Sunday after he was beaten by Denver's Rod Smith for a second-quarter, 80-yard touchdown reception.

But that wasn't the only embarrasement. Less than a day after Robinson's arrest on a charge of soliciting an undercover police officer for oral sex, the Broncos administered the final knife-twist with a 34-19 win over the Falcons, earning their second consecutive Super Bowl title.

Afterward, having lingered in a training room for treatment on a broken finger, the Pro Bowl safety apologized to his family and the Falcons organization. He insisted on his innocence, and refused to comment on specifics, citing advice from his lawyer.

"I'm just trying to be extremely real," he said, diverting from a statement that he had prepared for the news conference. "This is something I thought about; I had a lot of times to think about it. Quite frankly, I got no sleep. I had a lot of time to think about it."
 
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James Lofton's Analysis
I would have to think that not only would it have an effect on Eugene Robinson, but how about on the whole team. You are suppose to be at your mental and physical peak and you get the news that Eugene Robinson has come into trouble.

I talked to Dan Reeves early this morning. It seemed like I had awakened him around 8 a.m., and he was so weary I could just hear it in his voice.

He said "We are going to handle this like a family. I spent a lot of time last night talking to Eugene and his wife." So number one this guy is physically trained.
So your head coach is physically drained and when he doesn't have the spark it doesn't transfer to anyone else. And when things start to snowball on the football field you have to wonder if guys in the back of their heads are looking at Eugene Robinson -- glancing and wondering about his situation. That had to have a horrendous impact on this ball club today."
Former NFL star James Lofton is a football analyst with CNN/SI.

Robinson was allowed to dress for the game, and took the field with the Atlanta Falcons starting defensive unit. Following Smith's TD, Denver took a 17-3 lead on Jason Elam's extra point, but Robinson's evening didn't improve much. His initial action wasn't notable, either.

Although he broke up Denver's first play, a pass from John Elway that was intended for Terrell Davis, Robinson yielded a 14-yard catch to Broncos tight end Shannon Sharpe on Denver's first-quarter touchdown drive. Sharpe's reception set up Howard Griffith's 1-yard scoring plunge, and Sharpe injured his left kneee on the play.

An interception by Robinson's teammate Ronnie Bradford ended Denver's next possession. Robinson had three tackles at halftime; he finished with six.

"I was extremely focused on the game today," he said, despite the lack of sleep. "It didn't affect my play because it was pretty much therapeutic."

As the heart of Atlanta's secondary, Robinson's leadership was a major reason the Falcons reached their first Super Bowl. His strong religious beliefs, usually espoused in sermon-like fashion, seemed to make him a role model in this era of misbehaving athletes.

But Saturday night, less than 24 hours before the Super Bowl, the Pro Bowl safety was arrested on a downtown Miami street.

"I don't believe it ... anybody but Eugene," linebacker Henri Crockett said Sunday in the lobby of his team's hotel. "I know what kind of person he is. There has to be something more to it."

Robinson remained in seclusion at the hotel and didn't comment on his arrest before the Super Bowl. He warmed up as normal before the game, stopping to shake hands with head linesman Sanford Rivers. He also hugged teammates Ray Buchanan and Travis Hall in between drills.

In the third quarter, Robinson broke his left pinkie trying to tackle Terrell Davis, limiting his effectiveness the rest of the way. But after the game, he exhibited more concern about those around him, especially his family. He and his wife, Gia, have an 11-year-old daughter, Brittany, and a 9-year-old son, Brandon.

"The ramifications are far-reaching," Robinson said. "You have no idea of the gravity of the situation as I see it and how it's going to affect people. A good friend of mine said, 'Confession is good for the soul, but bad for the reputation.' It is so true.

"Reputation, I can deal with that. 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. I'm sorry that it even happened."

Police said Robinson, a graduate of Weaver High School in Hartford, Conn., was arrested at 9 p.m. on Biscayne Boulevard, a major street frequented by prostitutes and drug dealers. He was driving alone in a rented car.

"While conducting an undercover prostitution sting, defendant drove up ... and offered the officer $40 for [oral sex]," the police report said.
Fun in the sun: Before his arrest Saturday night, Eugene Robinson shared an afternoon laugh with his wife, Gia AP  

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, said police spokesman Angel Calzadilla. The car was impounded and will cost $1,000 to retrieve.

The undercover operation resulted in 25 arrests, including a suspect wanted for three murders in Pennsylvania, Calzadilla said.

On Saturday morning, 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."

Later Saturday, Robinson lounged by the hotel pool with his wife, Gia, and their children. Also attending the game were Robinson's mother and several aunts, uncles and cousins.

"The children asked questions. They have feelings," Samuel Robinson said. "My son talked to both kids, and that's a good deal."

Samuel Robinson said he was "very concerned" for his daughter-in-law.

"She's doing better [Sunday]," he said. "She had to compose herself."

Reeves, who suffered his fourth Super Bowl loss as a head coach, said he didn't think Robinson's arrest cost the Falcons a chance to win.

"It was a little distracting, but I don't think it was a major factor," he 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. He's a member of our family. We love him unconditionally. Nobody is more embarrassed than Eugene."

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.

After being released, Robinson was consoled in his hotel room by several teammates, including linebacker Cornelius Bennett and Ray Buchanan, according to Samuel Robinson, who also was in the room.

"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."

Bennett spent more than a month in jail during the last offseason after pleading guilty to sexual misconduct.

"Bennett has been there before," Samuel Robinson said. "I'm glad he was there to support Eugene. He let him know, 'We're here for you as a team.' "

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.

He signed with the Falcons as a free agent and became the unquestioned leader of the secondary, earning Pro Bowl honors and bringing a winning attitude to a franchise that was used to losing. All week, he wore his 1997 Super Bowl ring to inspire his teammates.

The arrest is yet one more difficult side issue this season for the Falcons, following Reeves' heart bypass surgery in December.

"We had all kinds of opportunities," safety William White said. "You can't fault no one but the person who's looking at you in the mirror."

 
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Robinson apologizes for his arrest and the distractions around it (282 K)
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The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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