FLOWERY BRANCH – Falcons defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux was suspended for one game by the league office on Tuesday for violating the NFL’s policy and program for substance abuse.
Babineaux was also fined an additional game check. He will miss the season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers and will be eligible to return to the team on Sept. 13.
He will be allowed to practice with the team and play in all of the exhibition games before his suspension takes affect on Sept. 4.
Babineaux reached plea deal and avoided jail time in a drug related case on July 14.
Babineaux’s felony charge of marijuana possession was reduced in Gwinnett County Court to three misdemeanor counts of marijuana possession, according to his agent Jack Bechta and his attorney Patrick McDonough.
Bechta, in an e-mail to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, said Babineaux pled no contest and was sentenced to 12 months of probation and a $1,500 fine on one count. The other two counts were suspended and will not be prosecuted if Babineaux completes the probation.
“He pleaded no contest, was direct, forthcoming and cooperative with the DA’s office,” Bechta said. “Jon, told me that he ‘was embarrassed’ by the incident, it was a bad decision and that he will become a better person for it. He said he will accept the consequences, move on and that he’s ready to focus on the season.”
Babineaux is believed to be a first time offender under the league’s substance abuse policy.
Babineaux was arrested in December on charges of possession of marijuana during a routine traffic stop.
Babineaux, 28, was with another man, 25-year-old Aaron Robinson of Minneapolis, who also was arrested. Robinson was charged with possession of marijuana, a felony.
Gwinnett Police originally stated both men would be charged with intent to distribute, but later released a statement clarifying the charges. Babineaux and Robinson were charged with possessing more than an ounce of marijuana, but not with intent to distribute. The charges are still felonies.
Babineaux and Robinson were stopped as they drove north on I-85 in Babineaux’s 2005 Cadillac Escalade EXT.
“It’s cut and dry,” Gwinnett police spokesman Cpl. David Schiralli told the AJC. “He was stopped for a traffic violation.”
Schiralli said the officer searched the SUV because he smelled marijuana. The officer found three bags containing a total of 40 grams of marijuana, Schiralli said.
In addition to the possession charges, Babineaux is charged with having no tag light and driving without a license and with an expired tag. He also was charged with tinting his car windows too much.
The Falcons drafted Babineaux in the second round out of Iowa in 2005.
He signed a five-year, $25 million contract extension with the team in November 2008. One game check for his $2.2 million base salary is $275,000.