WINNIPEG — Blue Bombers receiver Kenny Lawler apologized Tuesday for the “selfish decision” he made that led to his arrest for impaired driving this week.
The CFL’s leader in receiving yards told media that the incident, which happened early Monday morning, was a single-vehicle accident and there were no injuries.
“This was a mistake,” Lawler said after Winnipeg’s closed practice, which he was allowed to participate in even though the team has suspended him for Friday’s home game against Edmonton.
“It was a selfish decision. Just a bad decision on my part that I knew better not to step in that car. I’m sorry to everyone out there.”
Lawler said he never thought it would happen to him. He had a message for others who think the same way.
“I want everyone out there to be very smart about the decisions they make," he said. "I’m just thankful and blessed that I ain’t hurt nobody. I didn’t even hurt myself.
"Something like this could be 10 times worse, so I just want the kids, fans, adults, just anyone, just to really think twice about the things and the decisions that you’re about to make when you’re not in the right mind."
The 27-year-old wide receiver had just come off a CFL career-high performance, hauling in 12 receptions for 205 yards and a touchdown as the league-leading Bombers (7-1) crushed the Lions 30-9 last Friday at BC Place to extend their win streak to five games.
Lawler tops the CFL with 703 receiving yards in eight games this season. His 45 catches and four receiving TDs are both tied for second in the league.
The native of California informed head coach Mike O’Shea and other staff about his arrest on Monday, and spoke to his teammates Tuesday.
“Man, I was dreading walking in this locker room having to deal with everything that’s happened and transpired,” Lawler said.
“And as soon as I walked in this locker room, man, I was just being hugged on. People were coming and patting me on my back, letting me know that I’m going to have to get through this, because I was feeling the worse ever and that I could not get through it.”
The Bombers informed the CFL office about Lawler’s arrest and he’s agreed to seek help related to alcohol abuse.
“I’m open to whatever. Any help that I could get, I’m all for it,” Lawler said, adding he hasn’t had a problem with alcohol in the past.
O’Shea told reporters he went through a range of emotions after learning about the arrest.
“There’s some anger involved, and then you take it back to the person, the player and teammate that we have here that we all like and enjoy,” O’Shea said. “It quickly rights your train of thought into, all right, what does he need, what’s the team need then and how do we move forward?”
He doesn’t expect Lawler will receive discipline from the CFL, but said the Bombers needed to act and handed out the one-game suspension.
“We just feel that there has to be something from the team that shows that we don’t condone this behaviour,” O’Shea said, adding it doesn’t appear Lawler was socializing with teammates prior to his arrest.
He hasn’t decided who’ll replace Lawler for Friday’s game, but revealed Drew Wolitarsky didn’t practise Tuesday after suffering a leg injury against the Lions. The Bombers do have veteran receiver Naaman Roosevelt practising since signing him in late August.
One player who will miss Lawler on the field is quarterback Zach Collaros, who was named the league’s top performer of the week Tuesday. He completed 28-of-33 passes for a season-high 417 yards and two touchdowns in the victory over B.C. Collaros currently tops the league in passing yards with 2,148 yards.
“Kenny’s really remorseful. He’s accepted his punishment, obviously, and he’s trying to take responsibility for the decision he made,” Collaros said. “We’re going to rally around him as teammates.
“When he gets back, he’ll be ready to go.”
That’s what Lawler wants, and said he’ll be a better man, father, teammate and player.
“I believe this is going to be a very important turning point in my career,” he said.
This report was first published by The Canadian Press Oct. 5, 2021.
Judy Owen, The Canadian Press