Posted: 2:45 pm Friday, May 28th, 2010
By Post Staff
Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano didn’t say much about the arrest of third-year defensive end Phillip Merling, saying “I’m not a judge” and calling it a matter for the NFL league office.
“That’s a situation right now that we’re dealing with closely with the league with, trying to gather facts, trying to gather information, but it really is a league situation right now, the league is handling this,” Sparano said Friday afternoon after the team’s first of five mini-camp practices. “We’re going to let the process play itself out right now and see what the league decides down the road.”
For now, Merling’s Thursday morning arrest on a felony domestic battery charge has not affected his standing with the team. Merling, a 2008 second-round draft pick who has not played up to expectations in his two seasons, played almost exclusively with the first team defense Friday morning.
Merling is competing with first-round draft pick Jared Odrick for a starting job, and Sparano wouldn’t say if Merling’s arrest will jeopardize his standing on the team. Sparano said he met individually with Merling before Friday’s practice, but declined to discuss any of the specifics. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello did not immediately respond to an E-mail seeking comment Friday afternoon.
“There’s a lot of facts out there right now and a lot of information and a lot of assumptions,” Sparano said. “I’m not a judge. I’m going to gather it, I’m going to visit with him, I’m going to talk to him about my end of the thing – which I have done already – and then we’re going to let the people that make the decisions down the road make some of those decisions,” Sparano said.
Merling, 6-foot-4 and 305 pounds, was charged by the Broward Sheriff’s Office of aggravated battery against a woman he should have known was pregnant. Merling is accused is striking his two-months-pregnant girlfriend on the head and face, causing redness, swelling and a cut on her lip. A date has not yet been set for Merling’s next appearance in court.
Merling, 25, was released from jail Thursday afternoon on $15,000 bail. The Sheriff’s Office is currently investigating special treatment Merling allegedly received, according to the Sun-Sentinel, as he was allowed to leave the jail through a secret back door to avoid the crush of media waiting for him. At Friday’s practice, Merling also left the practice field through a different exit from the rest of his teammates to avoid the media.
Merling is the fourth Dolphin player arrested since February, joining Tony McDaniel (domestic battery), Ronnie Brown (DUI) and Will Allen (DUI). Sparano called the spate of arrests “frustrating.”
“We discuss distractions,” Sparano said. “Those things have been discussed, without a doubt, and were discussed a little bit more today. But I’ll keep the rest of it in-house right now.”