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Legal trouble, DUIs follow team during summer break

August 24, 2005

There are plenty of people questioning the character of MSU football after an summer laced with off-the-field problems.

For senior wide receiver Kyle Brown, he just sees these situations as something that the coaches, team and individuals involved just have to deal with.

"You're going to have problems anywhere you go," Brown said. "You see teams all over the country have problems.

"It's on the team as a whole to overcome those problems ? Hopefully, when we get in season, we won't have those problems."

Perhaps Brown has a point: Headlines from August on ESPN.com read, "Georgia linebacker suspended for opening game" after confronting an instructor who accused him of cheating on a test, "Ex-BYU player pleads to reduced charges in rape case," and "Air Force expels LB Brown for not meeting standards," alongside similar stories throughout the summer.

Senior running back Jason Teague is midst of a legal trouble, cornerback Jaren Hayes has been suspended indefinitely from the team for an internal issue, freshman running back Tony Howard was cited for a DUI in his hometown of Garfield Heights, Ohio, on July 2, senior offensive guard Gordon Niebylski and senior defensive tackle Domata Peko pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct this summer for incidents from February and May, and senior wide receiver Aaron Alexander accepted a plea bargain for a DWI for which he was sentenced Aug. 12.

Head coach John L. Smith made a point at the Big Ten Media Day in Chicago that each situation is separate and most problems fall into what he called a gray area. He also made it a point to keep Spartans football issues and punishments within the confines of the team.

"If we're going to punish someone, it's going to be early in the morning," Smith said about his policy to get players up at 5 a.m. "You don't want punish anybody, but it's purely motivation and it's purely physical.

"It can stretch too, but if it stretches to a kid missing a game, I would hope it wouldn't get out so that (the media) knew it (ahead of time). It can vary, because the punishment has to fit what the kid did."

The biggest off-the-field incident actually happened last fall, involving Teague, who is facing one account of assault and battery. Although people might want answers, Teague is innocent until proven guilty and Smith said he is sticking by his players' word.

Teague, who said he's just trying to focus on football, has received a lot of support regarding the situation.

"I get a lot of letters from home, people wishing me the best," Teague said on Aug. 8 at MSU Football Media Day. "People from my church back home have been sending me things, telling me they support me."

So while Teague gets support and Smith tries to dole out the correct punishments to fit the crimes - so to speak - MSU as a team has to try and move forward. According to Kyle Brown, that's what they plan to do.

"Overall, the summertime was good, we worked hard and we came together more than ever," Brown said. "Now, we can just go out there and put the helmets on, and we don't have to worry about people driving under the influence, none of this and that. Everything we're going to have is going to be on that field.

"We're ready to move forward," he added. "Like I said, ain't nobody perfect - every team in the country's got problems. It just depends on how that person deals with those problems, how the team deals with those problems, and how the coaches deal with those problems."

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