NEW YORK – New York Jets star wide receiver Braylon Edwards pleaded guilty Friday in his drunken driving case, saying he wanted to resolve it as a possible end to the NFL players' lockout neared.
"I feel good. I feel like it came to a fair conclusion," Edwards said as a he left a Manhattan court after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor driving while intoxicated charge. His case will be closed without jail time or probation if he meets conditions that include paying a $500 fine and staying in an NFL substance abuse counseling program he's been in since October.
"We're happy that it's past us, and now it's really time to focus on football again," he said.
His drivers' license will be suspended for six months, and he'll have to install a device that prevents a car from starting until the driver blows into a breath alcohol detector. He's due to check in with the court in October.
The plea came as the prospect of free agency looms for the 28-year-old wide receiver, who reiterated Friday that he "most definitely" wants to stay with the Jets. NFL owners approved a proposal Thursday to end the labor impasse and four-month-long lockout, but players have not yet voted.
It's unclear whether Edwards might face a league suspension over his DWI plea, or how it might affect his probation in Cleveland, where he pleaded no contest in January 2010 to misdemeanor aggravated disorderly conduct. Edwards, who was with the Cleveland Browns before being traded to the Jets in October 2009, had been accused of punching a friend of NBA star LeBron James outside a nightclub.
A spokesman for the Jets, Bruce Speight, said the team is aware of Edwards' plea and due to the "current labor situation" would have no further comment.
A Cleveland Municipal Court spokesman didn't immediately respond to messages. Edwards' lawyer, Peter M. Frankel, said he hoped the league and Cleveland authorities would take into account the player's extensive charitable activities, including the $1 million in college scholarships he awarded Cleveland students this spring.
Edwards was pulled over in Manhattan around 5 a.m. on Sept. 21; police said his Land Rover's windows were too dark. His four passengers included Jets left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson and defensive end Vernon Gholston.
Edwards' blood-alcohol level was twice the legal limit, police said. He told an officer he'd had "a couple of drinks," the last about an hour before, prosecutors said at his arraignment last fall.
"We were coming from a party. How about if I just leave the car and take a cab and go home?" he asked, according to prosecutors.
Edwards had challenged the basis for stopping him, the accuracy of the alcohol breath test and other aspects of the case.
Edwards had "a very legitimate chance" of prevailing at trial, but with free agency impending, "he wants to put any negativity behind him," Frankel said.
Edwards acknowledged the DWI might make some teams leery of him. But "you may have some teams — hopefully, the one I'm standing in now — that are still OK with it," said Edwards, who came to court in a natty gray-green suit, complete with a light green paisley pocket square.
He said he's been meeting every other week with a counselor in the NFL's program, its goal "to make sure that this is a one-time occurrence."
Edwards had 53 catches for 904 yards and seven touchdowns this past season, and he made a key catch to set up the Jets' game-winning field goal over the Indianapolis Colts in the final minute of an AFC wild card playoff game.
Meanwhile, Edwards got into a minor car crash in Detroit last month. Police said no tickets were issued, alcohol didn't appear to be a factor and neither Edwards nor his passenger was hurt.
Jennifer Peltz can be reached at http://twitter.com/jennpeltz