INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Indianapolis Colts put backup linebacker Josh McNary on the commissioner's exempt list Thursday, less than 24 hours after prosecutors filed criminal charges against the 26-year-old.
McNary faces charges of rape, criminal confinement with bodily injury and battery resulting in bodily injury — another off-the-field problem for a league that has been plagued by them this season.
McNary will not be permitted to practice with the team or attend games, including Sunday's AFC championship game at New England. He will, however, continue to be paid.
Punter Pat McAfee said players were "blind-sided" by the serious allegations that were released publicly Wednesday.
"I feel sorry for all of the parties involved, but I do believe that in this country that you are innocent until proven guilty," McAfee said. "If he is guilty of something, then I hope justice will be served."
While coach Chuck Pagano kept his team focused on this week's challenge — the AFC title game — team officials issued a statement just before the start of practice to explain the roster move.
"That designation will permit the investigation provided by the league's personal conduct policy to run its course and will afford Josh the opportunity to focus on his defense against the charges," the statement read in part.
"The Colts sincerely hope this extraordinarily serious matter will be resolved expeditiously and that justice will prevail."
Pagano declined to say what he told his team.
For the league, it's yet another off-field issue.
Carolina defensive lineman Greg Hardy and Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson both wound up on the commissioner's exempt list this season after criminal charges were filed against them.
League officials also continue to deal with the ramifications from a video that showed former Ravens running back Ray Rice hitting his then-fiancee in an elevator.
The public release of the video created an outcry, and Commissioner Roger Goodell changed his two-game suspension of Rice to an indefinite suspension. The NFL developed a new personal conduct policy that owners approved in December.
A neutral arbitrator also reduced Rice's ban, making him eligible to play, though no team signed him.
The accusations against McNary are troubling, too.
According to the probable cause affidavit, which was released publicly Wednesday afternoon by the Marion County prosecutor's office, a 29-year-old woman accused an unknown man of attacking her in the early morning hours of Dec. 1. The document said police tracked information from a cellphone the woman allegedly took from the man's apartment and later determined the man was McNary, a West Point graduate who has spent the past two seasons with the Colts.
The woman's name was redacted from the report.
Early Thursday morning Ed Schrager, McNary's lawyer, issued a statement on behalf of his client denying the allegations. Schrager wrote that McNary had immediately reported to law enforcement officials in a "respectful and "peaceful" manner.
The report details claims that McNary and the woman engaged in a "physical fight" in the man's apartment, and that she had scratched his neck, face, back and shoulder. Police reported that a nurse found dried blood behind the woman's ear and other injuries following a sexual assault examination.
According to the report, the woman said she also believed the man slapped her on the left side of her face with his hands before the attack. And, the report said, the woman repeatedly told the man "no" and "stop." The document said police also listened to a 2-minute voicemail from the accuser to one of her friends.
"At one point, the female can be heard crying and becoming emotionally distraught," the report said.
Police reported that when they later showed the woman a photo lineup to identify who she left a bar with that night, the woman pointed to McNary's photo and said he "looked familiar." But she could not positively identify anyone from the photos.
The police wrote when they arrived at McNary's apartment to investigate, the player said: "I know why you're here." The report said McNary claimed to have preserved evidence because he expected to see the police.
McNary's attorney cautioned there is another side to the story.
"The charges and affidavit publicly disseminated on Wednesday afternoon are not evidence of wrong doing but simply one side's story," Schrager said in the statement.
"Joshua has full faith and confidence in the American way, including its justice system, which he pledged to protect and defend as a West Point graduate and lieutenant in the United States Army."
Schrager said no other statements would be made on behalf of or by McNary.
The 6-foot, 251-pound linebacker finished his career as Army's all-time leader in sacks and tackles for loss, then spent two years on active military duty before seeking an early release so he could play in the NFL.
McNary signed with the Colts in April 2013 and has continued to fulfill his military obligation in the National Guard. He had 20 tackles during the regular season, but has none in the Colts' two playoff wins.
Indianapolis (13-5) filled McNary's spot by promoting receiver Griff Whalen from the practice squad. The Colts also signed defensive end Gannon Conway to take Whalen's spot on the practice squad.
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