In a move anticipated for several months, the NFL on Tuesday suspended Kansas City Chiefs starting cornerback Eric Warfield for the first four games of the 2005 season, the sanctions coming as a result of multiple DUI convictions.
The suspension will cost the Chiefs a talented cover defender, one who has started in all but one game over the last four seasons, and will cost Warfield $776,470 in base salary. That amount represents four-seventeenths of the $3.3 million base salary that Warfield was scheduled to earn in 2005.
Warfield, 29, was arrested for DUI on Sept. 20, 2004 in Overland Park, Kan., and police reports indicated that he had a blood alcohol level of .189 at the time, more than double Kansas' legal limit of .08. Warfield pleaded no contest in January to the felony charges. He was sentenced to 10 days in jail and 80 days of house arrest, was fined $1,500 and ordered to perform 100 hours of community service.
The DUI conviction was the third for Warfield, who is also serving one year probation, and the only surprise in Tuesday's action was that the NFL took as long as it did to levee the sanctions against the former Nebraska star. At one point last month, in fact, Warfield acknowledged some frustration in not knowing when the NFL would resolve his status.
A seven-year veteran, Warfield has assumed for several months he would be sanctioned by the league, and spoke openly about that likelihood during the offseason. Warfield has said in the past he would abide by the NFL's decision.
During a mandatory June minicamp, in anticipation that Warfield would be suspended for the start of the season, Kansas City coaches demoted him to the No. 2 unit and began to prepare third-year veteran Julian Battle to open the '05 season as the starter. But Battle suffered a season-ending Achilles' injury during the minicamp, and the Chiefs then signed 13-year veteran Ashley Ambrose as an unrestricted free agent.
Ambrose is expected to battle Dexter McCleon for the starting spot opposite standout cover corner Patrick Surtain, obtained from the Miami Dolphins just before the draft for a second-round selection. Kansas City coaches have indicated they prefer to keep McCleon at the nickel cornerback spot if possible.
Chosen in the seventh round of the '98 draft, Warfield has been a mainstay of the Kansas City secondary since breaking into the starting lineup full-time in 2001. For his career, he has 308 tackles, 19 interceptions and 70 passes defensed. Warfield, who has appeared in 104 games, with 68 starts, has four interceptions in each of the last four seasons.