PHOENIX — The Arizona Cardinals say they first learned of the domestic abuse accusations against backup running back Jonathan Dwyer on Sept. 17.
By evening, citing “the serious nature of these allegations,” the team had deactivated Dwyer from all team activities.
The quick reaction came with the backdrop of intense criticism of the NFL’s handling of a spate of such cases.
Dwyer, led to the jail in handcuffs on Sept. 17, was charged with three counts, including “aggravated assault causing a fracture” involving the unidentified 27-year-old victim.
Police said they were carrying out a search warrant of Dwyer’s residence in pursuit of more evidence. The 25-year-old player denied committing any assault, police said.
Authorities depicted a stormy relationship between Dwyer and the woman that escalated into violence on July 21, four days before the Cardinals reported to training camp.
Neighbors heard a fight and called police, who showed up at the residence but left without making an arrest because Dwyer hid in the bathroom, and the woman said she was the only one at the home, Sgt. Trent Crump said.
“She said she was in an argument on the phone only,” Crump said.
The next day, Crump said, Dwyer snatched the woman’s cellphone and threw it from the second floor of their residence to prevent her from calling police about another dispute.
Crump confirmed there was an allegation that Dwyer threw a shoe at or toward the couple’s 18-month-old son. Crump said he couldn’t elaborate on it.
Crump said the woman moved out of state with the child, but came forward last week and provided police with information about her injuries and text messages indicating Dwyer “was going to harm himself because of what had been going on.”
The NFL has been jolted by domestic violence issues since a videotape surfaced that showed former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice knocking out his then-fiancee in an Atlantic City, New Jersey, elevator.
Then Minnesota Vikings star running back Adrian Peterson was indicted on felony child-abuse charges for using a tree branch, or “switch,” to discipline his 4-year-old son.
On Sept. 17, the Carolina Panthers decided that star defensive end Greg Hardy won’t play any more games for the team until his domestic violence case is resolved.
Hardy was convicted of assault on a female and communicating threats after the victim said the 6-foot-4, 275-pound player threw her in the bathtub and onto a sofa covered with guns before threatening to kill her. Hardy is appealing the ruling.
The Dwyer arrest adds to the pressure on NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, whose handling of the Rice case has been widely criticized.
Rice was originally suspended for two games, then banned indefinitely after the video surfaced of his attack in the casino elevator.
This is the second domestic violence case involving a Cardinals player. Inside linebacker Daryl Washington pleaded guilty to assaulting his ex-girlfriend and is serving a year of supervised probation.
Washington hasn’t been penalized by the NFL for the offense but is suspended for this season for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.
Dwyer was booked on counts that include aggravated assault causing a fracture and involving a minor, criminal damage, and preventing the use of a phone in an emergency.
Dwyer signed with the Cardinals this year and was their second-string running back after spending the last four seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He scored a touchdown last week in Arizona’s victory over the New York Giants.
His best year for Pittsburgh was 2012 when injuries depleted the team’s backfield in the middle of the season. Dwyer filled in and had 100-yard-plus games in consecutive weeks.
Dwyer, from Marietta, Georgia, was a sixth-round draft pick of the Steelers out of Georgia Tech in 2010.
(BOB BAUM, AP Sports Writer)