By ROGER MILLS
© St. Petersburg Times, published September 17, 2000
From a brush with the law, to bouncing checks, to the Olympics, starting safety Damien Robinson kicks back and shares some thoughts:
RM: What don't people understand about your recent run-in with the law?
DR: They don't really understand what truly happened. First, people pick up the paper, read it and see the picture and the first thing they say is, "He has to be guilty of something, bouncing checks or something. How could he have bounced a check?" They don't know the story and so they tend to interpret it in the worst way.
RM: Enlighten us.
DR: Basically, there were two separate events. Me and some of the guys on the team were hanging out down at the (Cotton Club off Armenia). This police car was really kind of following us. We turned down one street, they turned down the street. He pulled up beside us, then went around us, then behind us again. Finally, when we got to our destination, where we were chillin', he came back again. Then, when we came outside and were just shooting the breeze -- there were three Range Rovers, a Suburban and a Navigator -- he just kept driving back and forth, back and forth.
RM: What happened next?
DR: Then, everybody was getting ready to go around 1:15 a.m. I pulled out first and one of my boys pulled out behind me. The police car went around my buddy who was following me and jumped behind me. So, I made a left to go from one one-way street to the next and that's when they pulled me over. He said I was driving on the wrong side of the road. Mind you, it's a tiny two-way street with cars on both sides, so what was I supposed to do, run over the cars on the side. You have to drive down the middle of the street. RM: Explain the warrant.
DR: The police said it was for insufficient funds on a (car registration) check written on Jan. 19.
RM: Damien, how does a pro athlete making your kind of money bounce a check?
DR: What happened was that the day they said the check was written, I was moving from one address to another. And, I also moved my checking account to a new bank. In the in-between process, things got confused. I wrote the check, thinking that it would go through in time. But then, when I moved my funds I forgot about that check and it hadn't cleared. For 80 bucks I went through a whole lot of grief.
RM: Describe what being arrested is like.
DR: I felt low. Disgusted most of all because I knew what was going to happen, because it has happened to previous teammates. All I could do is tell the truth, but you think about the past things that happened on the team and the fact that Coach (Tony Dungy) is very strict on staying out of trouble with the law.
RM: What were you thinking in the back seat of the car, with your hands cuffed behind your back?
DR: I was thinking about my family and friends. About the kids that I talk to, I tell them to stay out of trouble and things like that, and now look at me. I was thinking about the work I do in the community and the people who know me and know that I stay out of trouble. I'm thinking that people would judge me and accuse me of being a (hypocrite).
RM: What's the moral of this story?
DR: You have to keep up with your financial business and things like that. They said the reason I got arrested was that the court sent a summons but I never got it. I had everything transferred. I went to the post office and it takes four to six weeks for everything to be completely transferred. My thing is, if they had a warrant for me, they know who I am and where I am. If they wanted me they could have found me (at One Buc Place).
RM: What was it like coming into the locker room the next day?
DR: I talked to Coach the first thing in the morning and he said, "Okay, we'll have to go with the flow.' A lot of the guys were (supportive) but once the seriousness was over, they started with the jokes. We have a pot in which the defensive backs contribute for things like interceptions and Coach Herman (Edwards) said, "D-Rob, please, no checks in the pot. Straight cash."
RM: You're a parent and a fan of rap music. Do the explicit lyrics bother you?
DR: A lot of people say that the explicit lyrics of rap are wrong. But then again, if you take away rap period, and listen to everyday conversation, a lot of people curse around their kids. That's where kids normally pick it up from. You know, you've got that uncle or that aunt who curses a lot. We all do.
RM: You're going to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, do you see yourself in a Bucs uniform a few years from now?
DR: I would love to end my career here. But, the truth is, this is the NFL. They do different things for different reasons. All I've got is 16 games this season to go out and prove myself.
RM: Who's the most underrated receiver you've faced?
DR: Terry Glenn. He never gets props but is always breaking it off. By far. He doesn't get his just due.
RM: Who's the most respected?
DR: I think everybody is pretty much on point. But, I'll have to say Randy Moss. I respect him a lot.
RM: What was your reaction to Michael Jordan's presence in the locker room Sunday?
DR: It was kind of like a childhood dream come true. I grew up watching him play. I wanted to be like Mike, and to finally get to meet him, shake his hands and just talk, not on a conversation about basketball, but just chillin', that was great.
RM: What should not be a sport in the Olympics?
DR: Fencing. I don't get it. What makes you the best fencer in the world? Why don't they make it, you know the one when they stand back to back, walk 10 spaces and turn and shoot. Why can't that be an Olympic sport?
RM: Heard you are friends with Michael Johnson. What's he like?
DR: I know Mike personally, we grew up in Dallas. He's great guy, laid-back who likes to have a good time without getting out of control. Some people say he's cocky but I think he just has the confidence he needs to have to compete at that level.