Bernard Pierce predicted his fate early Wednesday morning while riding in the back of a police car following his arrest on charges of driving under the influence in Baltimore County.
“Do you know what happened the last time a Ravens player got a DUI?” Pierce asked the arresting officer, according to charging documents. “I'm getting cut tomorrow, not like you care.”
Twelve hours later, the backup running back was informed by general manager Ozzie Newsome that the Ravens were, indeed, cutting him. It marked the third arrest of a Ravens player this offseason, and the eighth arrest in 13 months.
Pierce’s situation is the latest example of how the Ravens have adopted a tougher stance when players get into trouble with the law. The other two players arrested this offseason — nose tackle Terrence Cody (felony animal cruelty and misdemeanor drug charges) and cornerback Victor Hampton (driving under the influence) — were also quickly released.
Before Pierce was released, Ravens spokesman Chad Steele told The Baltimore Sun “we take these matters seriously.”
Players and team employees told The Sun on Wednesday, after Pierce was released, that the move sparked conversations about how the team was apparently much more willing to get rid of players who run afoul of the law. One source said, “They’re not playing around, they’re serious.”
Ravens coach John Harbaugh told his players at the end of last season that there would be “a little bit shorter leeway” for off-the-field issues than in the past.
“Everybody's going to be under a different type of scrutiny from here on out, and that's a good thing,” Harbaugh said in January. “Understand that it's real, it's serious, and they need to be aware of that.”
Five Ravens players were arrested last offseason, including former star running back Ray Rice. None were released immediately, though, with Rice's $35 million contract terminated last September only after a graphic video surfaced of him knocking out his now-wife, Janay, in a casino elevator.
The Ravens don't operate under a zero-tolerance policy for off-the-field behavior. They judge each situation independently, according to sources.
Pierce, 23, was driving a 2014 Ford Mustang when he was pulled over by an unmarked patrol car for speeding 55 mph in a 30 mph zone on Dulaney Valley Road near Interstate 695 just prior to 2 a.m., according to Baltimore County police charging documents.
The officer said Pierce’s car crossed into the next lane before he pulled him over. When told why he was pulled over, Pierce asked “What did I do again?” The officer wrote in his charging document that Pierce smelled of alcohol and struggled to pull his driver’s license out of his wallet.
Pierce told the officer he had “three shots of Jack,” when asked if he’d been drinking. When Pierce then failed a series of sobriety tests, he was arrested.
While being placed into the patrol car, Pierce asked the officer if “the incident could be kept off the books. When informed that he was under arrest and that wasn’t possible, Pierce replied: “Never mind.”
After going to the Towson precinct, Pierce passed out on a metal bench, police said, and the officer said he had to shake Pierece’s shoulder to wake him up. Pierce told the officer he weighed “530” when asked his weight, later correcting himself and answering 230 pounds.
Although Pierce has a history of injuries and his production had declined in recent years, he was a third-round draft pick in 2012 and has some ability. As a rookie, Pierce averaged 4.9 yards per carry as the Ravens won the Super Bowl. However, he dipped to 2.9 yards per carry two seasons ago.
When he had a chance to emerge as the featured back last year when Rice was released, Pierce faltered and was beaten out by Justin Forsett. Pierce rushed for 366 yards and two touchdowns, averaging 3.9 yards per carry. The former Temple standout has rushed for 1,334 yards and five touchdowns in 45 games over three NFL seasons.
Pierce’s roster status was vulnerable even before this incident due to a crowded backfield. The Ravens last weeksigned Forsett to a three-year, $9 million contract. They also bring back Lorenzo Taliaferro for next season and are expected to draft a rookie running back.
The Ravens shed Pierce’s $660,000 nonguaranteed base salary for 2015, the final year of a four-year, $2.66 million rookie contract. He’s subject to the NFL waiver system and his contract can be claimed by another NFL team, but Pierce could be facing a suspension under the league’s personal conduct policy.
In November, Pierce filed a police report about a break-in at his residence, with police saying a handgun, jewelry and other personal property were reported missing. In 2013, in his hometown of Philadelphia, Pierce was the victim of a carjacking when his BMW was stolen at gunpoint.
Growing up as a teenager in Ardmore, Pa., Pierce acknowledged he didn't always surround himself with the best people and didn't always control his quick temper.
A brawl during his sophomore year at Lower Merion High School, during which Pierce said he was defending a friend, resulted in one person going to the hospital. Pierce then went to Glen Mills, a strict high school for court adjudicated juveniles in Delaware County, Pa.
“I got in a little trouble,” Pierce told The Sun as a rookie. “It's in the past. I was going in the wrong direction, making mistakes, teenage stuff. I made a complete turn.”
Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti and team president Dick Cass both expressed hope that a rocky 2014 off the field for the team's players would be an aberration. Bisciotti described this past year as the “worst” since he became majority owner.
Cass noted that the Ravens had three arrests during a five-year span from 2009 to 2013.
“So, we are hoping that 2014 was an aberration and that the processes that we have in place will continue to work the way they had the five previous years — much better than they did in 2014,” Cass said.
Including Ravens director of security Darren Sanders’ pending sexual offense and assault case, nine employees of the franchise have been arrested during a 13-month span. Sanders remains employed by the team but is on paid leave in accordance with NFL policy.
“I think things come in waves, and we certainly took a crash here last year,” Bisciotti said during a state-of-the-team news conference in late February. “I think that we are a team and an organization that cares, obviously, about our reputation, and when it takes a hit, then you examine what you do. But in order to take a hit to your reputation, you have to have a pretty good reputation to start with, and we did. So now it’s about proving that it was an aberration, and we believe that to be the case.
“Are we a little more aware? Yes, I think specifically if you go back to the Ray Rice thing, we certainly are more aware. We’ve been able to tap resources in the community that have furthered our knowledge, our sensitivity and our responsibility.”