Bengals will keep LB Brandon Joiner
The Cincinnati Bengals believe in second chances.
On Friday, the team, whose lineup last season included the likes of Cedric Benson, Adam "Pacman" Jones and Jerome Simpson, placed its support behind another legally embattled player, pledging to keep linebacker Brandon Joiner on its roster indefinitely after the undrafted rookie was sentenced to three years in prison.
"Though it is unlikely he will have any chance to play this season, his contract extends beyond 2012, and the club is choosing to retain his NFL rights at this time," the Bengals said in a statement.
Joiner's sentence, the result of a plea deal, stemmed from an incident occurring in 2007 when he was 18 and playing at Texas A&M.
"His positive actions during the past five years, including significant community service work, graduation from Arkansas State University and an unblemished subsequent behavior record, have generated a group of active supporters," the Bengals said.
Among those now backing Joiner include Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe and Hugh Freeze, the linebacker's head coach while at Arkansas State who is now the head coach at Mississippi, the Bengals said.
Joiner finished out his collegiate playing career at Arkansas State after being kicked off the Texas A&M team.
"In kind, the Bengals support Brandon's future opportunity for a career in the NFL," the team said in the statement.
Joiner was indicted for two counts of aggravated robbery and one charge of felony drug possession in January 2008, about a month after police said he and another former Texas A&M player broke into a College Station apartment and robbed a drug dealer at gunpoint.
According to court documents, Joiner and Yemi Babalola used duct tape to bind the man before taking off with wallets, keys, cellphones and marijuana, a police report stated. A police search of Joiner's home found marijuana, hydrocodone and Ecstasy.
Jay Granberry, Joiner's defense attorney, said he worked out a plea deal with prosecutors that would allow his client to graduate before going to jail. The lawyer indicated Joiner could be released on parole after six to nine months in prison.
The Bengals, of course, are no strangers to controversy hatched from players' run-ins with the law.
Benson, now a free agent after four seasons with the Bengals, served a one-game suspension last season after spending five days in a Texas jail in the offseason, the result of two misdemeanor assault cases.
In March, Cincinnati re-signed "Pacman" Jones, a five-year NFL veteran who will enter his third season with the Bengals. He was sidelined with a neck injury last season, but still played in eight games, including the past seven as a starter. He had 31 tackles.
Jones revived his career with the Bengals after a series of arrests and suspensions.
Jones' most recent trouble was resolved in January, when he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct. A second misdemeanor charge of resisting arrest was dismissed in a plea agreement with prosecutors. He may still face discipline from the league.
Simpson, who signed with the Minnesota Vikings last month after a 15-day jail sentence and three years' probation on a drug-related charge, also received the support of the Bengals.
Before his signing with the Vikings, coach Marvin Lewis, who sent a letter in support of Simpson to the sentencing judge, said the team was open to offering Simpson another contract despite the legal problems.
Simpson pleaded guilty March 1 to the felony charge resulting from about two pounds of marijuana shipped to his northern Kentucky home in September. He was indicted on a felony charge of marijuana trafficking, but the plea agreement changed the charge to a prohibited act relating to controlled substances, also a felony.
Meanwhile, linebacker Rey Maualuga's assault charge was dismissed late last month after the dispute was settled in mediation.
Maualuga also could still face possible punishment from the NFL under its personal conduct policy.
Maualuga was charged with misdemeanor assault after an employee at a downtown bar told police that the middle linebacker punched him in the face on Feb. 5.
The Bengals drafted Maualuga out of USC in the second round of the 2009 NFL draft.
Four years earlier, in the third round of the draft, they had picked receiver Chris Henry, whose five tumultuous seasons in the NFL ended in December 2009, when he was killed after either jumping or falling from the back of a moving pickup truck driven by his fiancée.
Henry was arrested five times during his pro career, and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell suspended him for the first half of the 2007 season for violating the league's personal conduct policy.
But after Cincinnati brought him back in 2008, Henry vowed to put his substance abuse and anger management issues behind him. And he had been succeeding, according to teammates as well as Bengals officials.
Information from ESPN.com's Jamison Hensley, ESPN The Magazine's Peter Keating and The Associated Press was used in this report.