EARTH CITY, Mo. -- With his legal issues in Florida still pending, St. Louis Rams linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar can't say much about the incident that took place last weekend. Perhaps not even as much as he'd like to. But, in speaking to the media for the first time since an altercation with NBA free agent Donte Greene outside a Miami nightclub, Dunbar offered what he could.
"I can’t say much just because it’s a legal issue," Dunbar said. "It’s unfortunate, but it’s a legal issue that has to take care of its due process first. I apologize, but that’s kind of the way the system works."
As details of the fight trickled out in the days following the incident, there were a few points of clarification worth making. From many reports, it sounded as though Dunbar was simply trying to defend himself from Greene and Greene's brother D'Metrique.
More importantly, the charges against Dunbar were not the same as initially reported by the Associated Press. Instead of felony battery charges, Dunbar will have to answer to disorderly conduct charges, which is a misdemeanor.
Presumably, Dunbar was able to tell Rams coach Jeff Fisher and the team's decision-makers his side of the story when he met with them earlier this week.
"I spoke to coach and everybody and kind of just explained the situation and circumstances," Dunbar said. "They have a clear understanding of my (role) in this situation, so they are understanding. It’s unfortunate, but hopefully we can just get past it and we can move on."
That's clearly what Dunbar's plan was as the Rams opened their full-squad training camp Friday afternoon. After becoming something of a defensive revelation in 2012, the 2013 season was pretty close to a disaster for Dunbar. Dunbar served a four-game suspension for violation of the league's policy on performance-enhancing substances but had to do so as a free agent after the Rams released him before the regular season.
Dunbar re-signed with the Rams after his suspension, but when he returned, his role had been diminished by the presence of rookie linebacker Alec Ogletree. By the time the season had ended, Dunbar had just 39 tackles and not much else. But with the chance to reunite Dunbar and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and memories of his productive 2012 season, the Rams re-signed Dunbar to a two-year contract in free agency.
This offseason, Dunbar set about finding ways to make himself more versatile. "(I'm) completely motivated," Dunbar said. "I spent my whole offseason doing it. I lost a lot of weight. I did a lot of DB drills. Linebacker drills, too, but just making sure I can play in space and operate in space. I’m expecting to play well this year."
Dunbar said he dropped about 13 pounds from his 2013 playing weight of 240 pounds to get down to his current 227 pounds. Much of that work came from working on defensive back drills so that he'd have a better chance to contribute on passing downs. In some ways, Dunbar now looks more like a big safety than a linebacker.What his role becomes remains to be seen, though he's projected to handle the outside linebacker job opposite Ogletree.
For now, Dunbar is just excited to put aside off-the-field issues and get back to work.
"It was definitely a relief to be back, considering everything," Dunbar said. "I’m happy to be back, happy to be playing football and doing something I would rather be doing."