Carolina Panthers

Jarrett pleads guilty to DWI, 'happy to get it over with'

CHARLOTTE -- Carolina Panthers wide receiver Dwayne Jarrett pleaded guilty to driving while impaired on Monday, ending the legal chapter for the second-year receiver who's trying to fix things on several levels.

Jarrett, 21, was arrested in March after running a red light, and registered a 0.12 blood alcohol reading, well above North Carolina's legal limit of 0.08.

The red light charge was dropped on Monday, and with no prior record, Jarrett was given a standard sentence for first offenders.

He surrendered his license, was given a 30-day suspended sentence and was ordered to pay $420 in court costs and fines and to perform 24 hours of community service in the next 30 days.

With his arrest, Jarrett was already placed into Stage I of the NFL's substance abuse program, although it's unclear if there will be any further punishment from the league. He's already gone through an assessment through the league and is subject to more frequent random testing than players not in the program.

"Just happy to get it over with," Jarrett said as he left the Mecklenburg County Courthouse. "Just learn from your mistakes and move forward.

"It's something I had to do. I took full responsibility for it here in court. Everything worked out."

Now he has about a month to get himself ready for his next trial, the one that comes on the practice fields in training camp.

The Panthers were hoping he'd be a complement to Steve Smith last year -- they must have, since they cut Keyshawn Johnson upon drafting him -- but Jarrett was active for just eight games and caught six passes. Then he fell out of favor with Smith, who didn't always think Jarrett was applying himself fully.

Smith's displeasure was seen when he told Jarrett in front of reporters he should "go watch some film," but he told The Herald last week, "I regret it to this day. I'm upset at myself that I did." Smith said he holds those around him to high standards, and that's where the remark came from.

Jarrett shrugged when asked if he thought Smith was hard on him on purpose.

"I don't know, Steve handles things in his own way, and that's my teammate," Jarrett said. "He's definitely one of the most explosive players in the NFL, so he's definitely someone you take heed to and try to look up to, me coming in as a rookie. We collided heads at times, but I think he wants the best for me. We just had that miscommunication between us, and we worked things out. There's no bad blood between us. I'm there working hard every day just like he is, and trying to learn from him.

"We definitely had a lot of talks last year that was between us. He definitely came to me and said there were things he wished he could have handled better. There were some things that got out that kind of started a conflict between us, or made it look like it in the paper. Like I said, he's my teammate, and we're just trying to get the Panthers back to that big game, and I'm trying to do everything in my power to help him."

The Panthers aren't counting on him nearly as heavily this year, having added veteran receiver Muhsin Muhammad and signing free agent D.J. Hackett, both of whom are working in front of Jarrett. In a talented young group of receivers, it's hard to tell how much of a chance Jarrett will get this year, barring injury.

Despite that, the team thinks Jarrett's growing as a player this offseason, as well. He looked good during non-contact spring practices, and said earlier this month he's more focused on the mental side of the game than as a rookie.

"He just looks more comfortable out there, the year's helped him," general manager Marty Hurney said earlier this month. "He's approaching things the right way, working hard, doing things well in practice.

"He's handled (the arrest) the right way. Certainly he apologized for what he did, and he's trying to do things the right way now."